At the beginning of July, as my anxieties were getting under control, I thought a more settled, simpler life, was just around the corner, when Cassandra told me:
“In August we, the whole family are going to Main for a month”.
I will have to be alone, in this big house? I thought, but said nothing.
As if she read my mind, Cassandra continued:
“We thought you might feel uncomfortable, alone in the house and we asked Matt and Jim to move in with you. They will be upstairs, in our bedroom, and you’d love them. They are fun and you will not even have to worry about them making passes at you, they are gay.”
What does one thing have to do with the other? I thought. What did she mean, if they were happy they wouldn’t be attracted to me! Did she mean I was gloomy, looked like not fun enough?
“So… you mean, they are so much fun I’m not their “type?”
Cassandra handed me a cup of tea, in which she poured milk. It was the English style. The English… I thought, had such imagination, who would think of mixing milk and tea. It tasted good and different. We sat down in the living room on the comfortable Windsor chairs.
“That’s not what I meant to say…” Cass said, and continued to stir the milk and tea. “They will not make passes at you because they are gay, they are not interested in women.”
She was more explicit, so that there was no doubt or misunderstanding:
“They are a couple. They love each other, they are not interested in women, no matter how attractive they are.”
Oh! I was getting it, or did I? Very confusing…Why did she say they were gay, why didn’t she say they were homosexuals and that’s why they wouldn’t be attracted to me? In Bucharest, I was sure the dictionary said gay meant happy. I didn’t think the dictionary gave gay as an alternative for homosexuality. Of course, it Romania people went to jail for being “gay” – I liked this word much better, but I came from a country where it was punishable with three years of jail! I had a good friend whose father went to jail because he was gay, but he was also married to a woman… that was also confusing. How did he have a child? Could he have been attracted to women too?
“In America we use the word “gay”, Cass continued, “for people attracted to other people of the same sex. You’d love them, they are our good friends and will take care of you. You could completely trust them, they are good people.”
As if reading my mind, she continued:
“There is still prejudice, some gay people get married to women, even have kids, because this is what we are “supposed” to do, it’s acceptable. Later they can’t live with themselves anymore and come out of the closed!”
Oh! She was confusing me again… what closed were we talking about ? Why were we introducing furniture in this conversation which was confusing enough already.
“What do you mean “come out of the closed?” I asked.
“Sorry, this is an expression… like when an actor is about to perform, we say “break a leg”. Of course, we don’t literally mean we wish the person to break a leg, it an expression for good luck!”
Some expression! I thought, if someone told me to break a leg I would have not liked it at all. Good thing she was explaining these “expressions.” I wondered how many were they…
August 1st arrived and the Ludingtons left for Main and Matt and Jim moved in.
Matt was a talented actor and Jim a well known musician. They had been together for almost 8 years. Matt was tall and very muscular and sexy while John was blonde, had beautiful blue eyes and a winning smile. He was also a cook and we had a friendly competition for the kitchen. We always had dinner together, the three of us and it was the highlight of my days.
“How did you fall in love?” I asked when I felt we knew one another well enough, and after they asked me about my love life.
“I was actually married to a woman, when I met Jim. He was washing his hands in a club’s bathroom and I saw his face in the mirror first. He lifted his eyes and looked at me and something happened. I guess… there was love at first sight.”
Matt took Jim’s hand into his and for a while there was silence. They looked so happy, I felt jealous and broke the silence:
“So… I guess you had to “come out of the closed?”
“Yes, wow! How did you know this expression?” Matt asked.
“Cassandra told me.”
“I see, she’s been educating you.” he smiled.
“Yes, I came out of the closet and told my wife and it was painful for both of us. We loved each other, still do, but I wasn’t in love with her…and didn’t want to hurt her feelings.”
My head was spinning. “I loved her, but was not in love with her.” ‘IN” seemed to make a big difference but I wasn’t really “getting” it. Was I ever, going to “get” it, I thought.
Cass was right, the three of us became friends. It was Jim who first showed me how to use a self-service gas pump because it was less expensive, and an ATM machine only from my bank because if it were another bank more fees were charged.
One afternoon, Jim examined me top to bottom:
“You could be an attractive woman, you know, but you need some work done… your hair, and some make up and jeans, not these silly skirts from the 60’s!
By the evening I was transformed into this new person, ready to go with them on South Street in Philadelphia. Jim’s band was playing at one of the clubs and I was their guest. That meant I didn’t have to pay to get in.
The club was dark and smoky and Jim’s band played the first round. They took a break and as Jim was getting off stage, several young women, screaming his name cornered him touching him everywhere:
“I love you! I love you! I dream of f…. you ! Give me a piece of you, handsome!”
He didn’t seem to mind and politely went in the back to change.
“Oh my God? Who are these women? ” I asked Matt who was sitting next to me at the bar.
“Just groupies, make a lot of noise but Jim is a star, it’s normal.”
Normal? Groupies? In Romania if a woman called a guy first it was unacceptable, I thought. To throw yourself at a guy like that, and scream you wanted to f… him. They definitely didn’t know he was gay. I felt like I had an “in” with and I belonged more than the groupies, that was for sure!
Life with Matt and Jim was fun and time passed quickly. When the Ludingtons returned, in September, they found a transformed Rodica, a more Americanized person whose personality ‘was coming out of the closed” in a different way. The shy, uncertain Romanian girl of a few months before was gradually replaced with a confident young woman who was ready to fight and bring her husband to America. She was still in love with him!