Marriage is love.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Brokeback Lost and Found

On the Brokeback Mountain website, there's a place for people to write their own stories...

I may be one of the few queers in America who hasn't seen Brokeback Mountain. I sense that it will take much courage and time to process and haven't had the luxury of time for that lately, especially as I've been dealing with the resurfacing in my life of the woman I lost at twenty-one to family prejudice, her internalized religious bigotry, and my fears of destroying the relationship by letting it grow where it should have -- fears born from having previous ones fall apart as soon as the other person crossed that line to sexual expression and scared herself enough to need to run far and fast away from that part of herself -- only to have the non-blooming-non-growth stymie my relationship with my girlfriend all by itself until she ran into the arms of the first man who offered.

I remember my mother calling me a liar when my father spilled the beans my stepmother had broken my confidence about, saying, "R. would never do a thing like THAT!" -- "That" said with all the disgusted vehemence of a slap across the face -- "That" being the look in R's eyes I saw when I awoke to find her kneeling by my bed watching me sleep, wanting desperately to wake me and make love with me but too afraid of herself, her mother's already profoundly expressed disapproval, her fear of eternal damnation -- "That" being my very being -- me wrapped definitionally in a sense of love and being orchid-fragile and years from being able to stand tall and take for myself from myself.

I remember flying back to town for R's wedding just a few months after that confrontation that ended with me leaving home for good -- going to a shower, spending precious moments with her after the clueless gaggle of girls had left...She showed me the dress she and her mother had finished just the night before and we talked about her plans and I tried so hard to be happy for her. The next day, though, I sat next to my mother in the church with tears silently escaping down my cheeks, mother all stone cold disapproval, fully sure that everyone there could read my mind and were staring not at the bride but at her -- she feeling enough misappropriated embarrassment and shame that she broke her icy patrician facade with a whispered scolding that actually did draw the puzzled attention of a few.

I took the groom aside at the reception and promised him in graphic terms that, if he ever hurt her, he'd have to answer to me. R, believing that I would be the one hurt instead, never told me that he was physically and emotionally abusive, beginning within hours of their wedding with a pronouncement that she was to stop the music and dance performing that was so central to her soul. She cut off communication very quickly because she knew that, if she didn't, I'd know and would act and that the chances of tragedy were too high for her to let that happen. She rapidly lost herself in the recurrent spiraling cycles of abuse and only after all but the youngest of their four children were on their own did she finally manage to leave him.

As I'd changed my name, having dropped my stepfather's last name she'd known me by and reclaimed my old family names I'd originally been given from my mother's maiden names instead, it took her some years to find me after she took her first tiny steps into freedom, finally finding me through Julien's List. Only then did she say that she knew even before her marriage -- the first time they ever had sex -- that she realized that being with him felt like rape both because she was suddenly aware she was never going to not be a lesbian and because he was an abuser to his core. She knew she shouldn't marry him but, given what her church had taught her, she could see no way out.

She is still very damaged -- just a tiny bit of the vibrant pixie I knew remains -- and it breaks my heart. But she's fighting hard to get her self back. I sense that she's come quite some way and that there's hope for her but I can't help but weep for the unnecessary pain and loss of the intervening years and for the hard road she has yet to travel just to get back to where we parted so many decades ago.

She obviously had hopes that she could come back to me and take up where we left off. My wife of over two decades, Phyllis, is a generous person who trusts in the depth of our love and commitment enough to never keep me from enfolding R in a healing embrace -- no matter what its depth or scope -- but the urgency of R's initial hunger for that faded some with her understanding that, where her growth was stymied, mine was not and that, while I am still myself, I've lived in such a way that that old me she wanted to be held by is just a small part of who I am now and that we would not be a good fit anymore. She obviously doesn't know what to do with that and I'm left just being kind and gently solicitous when I remember to be and overwhelming when I don't and she sends me e-mailed slightly revealing humor the way she used to bake me lemon poppyseed bread.