Oh why must I be tested in every possible way?
I liked him the minute I met him four years ago. I was on the bus, and he came up and introduced himself. Like most strangers who approach me, he was a fan of this blog and he wondered if he could sit next to me and talk. I was only too happy because he was really hot!
Vaguely European in look, he turned out to be European in fact, from the Czech Republic. It was his freshman year at UMass and he was in his first semester. He told me in his good but heavily accented English that he was enjoying himself in the United States, but that he was having a hard time making friends. He said he was lonely. He also said he was gay.
Danger alarms went off all over my mind, but I knew that any attempt to restrain myself was futile. There was coffee at the Haymarket, followed by dinner and drinks at Packards and then finally I brought him to a gay bar. He had never seen such a liberated environment! He told me that where he came from to be openly gay was to be rejected by your family and risk getting beaten to death by the local toughs. I told him he would be safe in Northampton.
The night got later, as nights will do, and then before I knew it we were enroute back to Amherst and my downtown apartment. I'll leave you to imagine what happened, provided you have a very erotic imagination.
Then I rarely saw him again for the next four years. It was as if having introduced him to the Hamp gay scene he had taken to it like a fish to water. With his slightly exotic, Continental looks he never lacked for offers to buy him a drink, and whenever I ran into him he was always in the company of some handsome young man, always a different one. I didn't mind. I felt a little guilty for robbing the cradle that night we were together, and I didn't want to hurt him. He just needed a little push to pursue the lifestyle he was seeking, and after one night's tour of the gay scene with me he never had any problem again overcoming loneliness. Besides, I was old enough to be his father, although you'd be surprised how many young guys find that a turn on.
I ran into him last December around Christmas in downtown Amherst, and he informed me that he would be graduating this spring. Wow, I thought, how quickly four years had gone by! He was amazed to hear that I was sober and living in Hamp, he told me he always imagined me as the "Wizard of Amherst." I don't know exactly what he meant by that, and I didn't ask him because I wanted to take it as a compliment. When we parted after only a short chat, I assumed that it was unlikely that we would ever speak again.
I was wrong.
Last Friday I was sitting at a computer in the UMass Library reading my favorite blogs. As I did so, I felt a strange sense coming upon me that I was being watched. I know it's irrational to believe in such a sense, but I usually find it to be accurate and this was no exception. Sitting at a computer just a row over was my European friend staring at me as his eyes locked immediately upon mine. I got up and went over to greet him. We shook hands and soon we were sitting in the library lobby in the coffee shop aptly titled "Procrastination Station" because that is its primary use as a place for students to escape the assignments they are supposed to be working on elsewhere in the library. But of course I am not a student and as a new graduate neither was my friend, so it was not schoolwork that occupied our conversation.
He was leaving on Monday, back to Prague for a summer's rest before pursuing a graduate degree in Vienna. He was leaving to live a life in a world so absurdly different from mine that he may as well be moving to another planet. That was okay, I never expected anything different.
Then he suggested we get a hotel room. At first I thought he was joking, didn't he know that I was in drug recovery? "When you give up drugs and alcohol," he asked, "does that require you to give up sex as well?" I told him no, of course not, but that it was recommended not to have romantic relationships for about the first year, lest the emotional complications drive you to drink. He laughed and said he knew of such relationships. However he then asked how we could have an emotionally complicating relationship when he was leaving to go half way around the world in just a few days?
Of course I had to say yes, but I was even more convinced by what he added. He reminded me of that night on the town in Hamp. We had never mentioned it to one another on any of the brief meetings we'd had since that night. Now he wanted me to know how much it meant to him to have had a kind and fatherly friend to introduce him to gay life in America, and how much he appreciated how I didn't pursue him afterwards, but let him go his own way for four fun filled years of sexual adventures. "But I would have been your boyfriend if you'd asked me." he said. I suspect that was a lie, yet the fact that he would say that almost brought a tear to my eye.
We went out to that place on Route Nine, where prices are low and questions are not asked, and we spent the afternoon having fun. Neither of us drank alcohol. I did not take drugs but he did, although I made him take them in the bathroom. Still, a whiff of marijuana followed him back to the bed once and my willpower swayed sickeningly, but I did not yield. Another time I heard sniffing sounds from the bathroom, but I feared nothing good could come from inquiring about it.
As I write this, by now he must be on a plane back to his homeland. In this new world of interconnectivity, it will be easy for us to stay in contact. However I will let him make the decision first of whether to email me. Our relationship, consisting of only two sexual encounters in four years and a half dozen conversations, was never a romance. But whatever it was, it was perfect, unfolding and concluding just as it should have, and I've learned as I've gotten older that on the rare occasions in this life when things go absolutely perfect, to just let it be.
It was raining like crazy when we said good-bye for the last time. Once his car drove out of sight I took out my camera to make a video of the storm. Of course.
I am, therefore I blog.
When my friend Hwei-Ling Greeney was defeated for re-election last April many wondered how active she would remain in the public affairs of Amherst. As it turns out the answer is very active! Her latest project is trying to protect the jobs of school lunch workers who are threatened by a privatization plan.
I don't know enough of the details to say whether the privatization makes sense, but it sounds like another one of those classic Amherst debates where both sides have good points. Amherst is in perpetual fiscal crisis, so anything to save money needs to be considered. On the other hand, does the human cost in suffering for the workers justify the savings? Whatever the outcome, in or out of office we can count on Hwei-Ling to still be a force in public affairs.
Joe is a student who volunteers at the Amherst Survival Center. Or I should say he used to be a student and he used to volunteer at the Center. Joe graduated last month and as of tomorrow he's leaving for Nova Scotia where he has both an apartment and a job awaiting him.
He'll probably never be seen in these parts again. That's the mixed blessing of working at the Survival Center, you meet so many cool people but then they disappear into the slipstream of the world.
In Amherst they drive funny cars, such as this flower powered mobile.
Even the kiddie cars get an eccentric paint job.
It must be tough to be a kid with a talentless Mom who thinks she's an artist.
When I was growing up the only Tom Devine I was aware of was Monsignor Thomas Devine of Elms College in Chicopee. Today with the internet those people with the dubious honor of sharing my moniker are continuously coming to my attention. Among them is Tom Devine of Great Britain. Both Tom Devine and his friend Josh Smith are sixteen, an age when young lads are inclined to experiment....