There are two armchairs in his living room, strategically placed on the opposite sides of the room. The comfort of these cushioned seats represents the infinite distance of two men inhabiting a living space meant for sharing but now reduced to a mere representation of lost feelings between two human beings who used to be in love with each other. Now, they don’t touch one another. Although they share the same bed, they wake up at different times. One of them allegedly works late, and by the time he gets home, the other pretends to be asleep. The two of them have spent seven years together. They will be together for much longer, bonded by mutual fear of the unknown. Yet, the world outside the sterile routine of their living room is a strange place none of them seems to have the courage or energies to embrace and explore. And so, they endure in silence, as time and life brush them by with relentless indifference.
I know about this ongoing and quiet hell because one of the two men sharing this living room visits my flat once a week, and for a few hours, he inhabits my living room and sometimes my bed. It all started rather casually. Cynical as it sounds, he fits into the routine of a man who right now lacks the inclination of going out looking for single blood, with all the implications that this kind of activity often implies. I fit into his routine because he drives past my apartment on his way home. I am one of his excuses for working late in the evening. Often, he tells me of the guilt he feels when he spends time with me. He had settled into a routine based on excuses, phone calls made strictly before 6pm, and messages between us deleted as he drives home to his partner. I am sympathetic but detached.
I don’t feel any guilt for the other man sitting alone in another living room while his man is with me. As remorseless as it sounds, the other man doesn’t concern me. I don’t know him or what he looks like, nor have I ever desired to meet him. He isn’t part of my world. He only happens to be emotionally involved with a man who pops by my place occasionally. Meeting keeps each other sane in a world that hasn’t turned out as we thought it would. I fulfil my need for social interaction coupled with intimacy with his visits. In exchange, I am his outlet for carnal desires. Desires highlight weaknesses. Flaws are our damnation.
Sometimes we have sex. Other times we cuddle. Then I cook some dinner or he orders a takeaway. As we eat in my living room, we talk. We share our lives and listen to one another until the time comes for him to go back home to his living room, to what he knows best and perhaps dreads the most: facing the apathy of another night with no purpose. He says that the time he spends with me fills the void in his life. He says that my living room makes him realise that his life is not how he dreamt it. He also says that I deserve better than secret encounters and that my sensitivity and understanding of human nature demands a man who should grab me, keep me close and never let me go. Perspective is everything. These meetings are secretive only in his world and not mine.
Perhaps I am worthy of a full-time man in my life, and so is my living room, the space filled with my energy. In this peaceful place, I find shelter from the downpours that periodically come my way, storms vital for my emotional growth as a human being. He is probably right. I am a sensitive soul with the ability to read between the lines of people’s lives, and that’s why, if need be, I am not afraid to be alone and feed on solitude.
Gay men are mysterious and complicated creatures, unreadable at the best of times, verging into totally inscrutable souls as soon as a percentage of feelings makes it into their life equation. Our fragile egos often morph into self-sabotage, preventing us from showing our true colours in a perennial battle with what we WANT and dare to give. The inability to share my vulnerabilities turns finding a lifetime partner into an elusive task. I need time to confide in another person. Maybe one day, a man with patience will come along, or he won’t. I would be happy to share my world with him if he does. If he doesn’t, my living room and I will do fine with one another and the occasional guest, gravitating in orbits nearby but unable to get close enough to rock my universe into primordial chaos: physics, pure and simple.
Read Charlotte Dingle’s brilliant column about unicorns and unicorn hunters.