Monday, December 31, 2012

"The Imitation Of Life..."


Although Morgan Freeman has had a storied career in film, and will be forever remembered as the black man who immortally portrayed "God," it was this little known film in which he gave in my opinion, his very finest performance ever...


"Lean on Me" - A 1989 dramatized biographical film written by Michael Schiffer, directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Morgan Freeman. Lean on Me is loosely based on the story of Joe Louis Clark, a real life inner city high school principal in Paterson, New Jersey, whose school is at risk of being taken over by the New Jersey state government unless students improve their test scores. This film's title refers to the 1972 Bill Withers song of the same name.





"Fear Eats the Soul"


"A Story Of Christmas Past..."


As Christmas week draws to its close tonight, I find that as always, I am remembering Christmases past... And among those, there is one that stands out from all the others including those that were both good and bad... In fact, I wrote about it during the summer of 2009.  It was Christmas of 2006, and it was the first Christmas of my life when I was in love.

For most of my life, Christmases had always been both a blessing and a curse.  And though I always looked forward to Christmas coming, for many years of my life, it never really came at all for me...  For most of those years I was alone and unhappy, afraid of the truth of my own heart.  But once I found the courage to embrace the truth, there came a Christmas like no other before or since... this is the story of that Christmas, a Christmas past... and a Christmas that I am always remembering.

I was last with Stephen Christopher Harris for Christmas of 2008 enduring great cruelty.  The story of that Christmas is nothing to tell... but the story of how that came to be began several years before as Christmas 2006 approached and I found myself truly and deeply in love with him, believing I'd met the man I'd spend the rest of my life with.  And although I'd only just experienced the joys of being free to love for the first time in my life, I was quickly learning that with love comes pain and sometimes unbearable heartache.

I remember how in November 2006, Stephen told me that he didn't celebrate Christmas (owing to his being raised as a Seventh Day Adventist). And so in Charlotte, in 2008, we didn't celebrate Christmas at all. Although I suspected he enjoyed himself at his employer's Christmas party... when he came home that evening, he offered me the last piece of candy from a box he got as a party favor. Nevertheless, despite what he'd say about Christmas, I recall I always found it quite ironic that when he lived here in Detroit, he lived in a veritable Christmas Palace.


Mike Fisher goes all out for Christmas. He hires professional decorators to come into his mansion and transform it with 15 foot Christmas trees and evergreen boughs and garlands everywhere... Angels and holly, mistletoe and golden cherubs adorn every niche and console. You'd half expect Santa to descend the stairs carrying the baby Jesus.... When I saw the house that first year, I was awestruck. Yet Stephen told me he didn't care for Christmas at all, though he celebrated it with Mike every year... He even left me on Christmas Day 2006 to take Mike his Christmas present, having discussed with me his struggle in deciding what to get him that year.

That was our first Christmas together... Stephen did buy me a gift... a pair of gloves, a set ear warmers and a bag of coconut candies (yes, I still have a few of them preserved as mementos). But two weeks before that Christmas of 2006, he set a spending limit on our gifts to each other.  I spent exactly the amount he prescribed on a gift he didn't take to his rooms in Mike Fisher's mansion until July 7, 2007, the day he made he made me a sacred promise that though he came back, he never kept...  Nevertheless, I remember that Christmas of 2006 as if it were yesterday and I remember it as one of the happiest of my life.

In the days, months and years that followed, I often told Stephen that Christmas Day 2006 was the best day of my entire life and that it would only ever be eclipsed by our wedding day... This despite the fact that I had just before that Christmas endured the greatest disappointment I'd ever known in my life when because Stephen Christopher Harris lives his life in fear he failed to follow through on the plans we'd made to marry later that winter... I knew even then that it was unlikely that he'd ever keep his promise that we'd be married...



In late October 2006, Stephen and I, recognizing (I thought) that we were deeply in love, agreed that we were going to marry in Ontario, Canada on January 15, 2007 and begin a new life together. So by mid-December, I had investigated what we needed to do to obtain our marriage license in Canada.  I'd also found a wedding facilitator to help us arrange a ceremony in Windsor. But because I was divorced, Canadian law required a few extra steps including a Canadian lawyer's opinion on my U.S. divorce. And so because of this, Stephen and I needed to apply for our license at least 4 weeks before our intended marriage date.

I'd obtained the applications and Stephen came over to fill them out with me on a sunny mid-December day. When he arrived he said he couldn't find his passport (I knew it was a lie), which was required of non-citizens of Canada. But we sat down anyway and he stared at the forms for more than a few minutes before he finally picked up his pen to write his name down. He didn't get much past "Stephen..." and when I asked him what was wrong, at first he didn't say anything. Then as he crumpled the form, he said, "I can't do it, I can't marry a man, it's against God's word..." I was dumbfounded, but not surprised - we'd had much discussion about this before that day, and I was then and still am of the opinion that "God" was just a convenient excuse for Stephen to avoid commitment to anything or anyone. But despite everything that had been said before that day, he agreed we'd be married and he and I knew it was the only way we'd ever know any real happiness.



That day, as we sat looking at the crumpled form, rather than each other, Stephen complained that we didn't need to be married. He said he could be faithful, truthful, honest, loving, and caring and my partner for life without a marriage between us. And though I knew what he was saying was not so, and I knew because of a "word of wisdom" I'd received, I tried to accept what he was saying. I loved him with all my heart, and as I finally looked into his eyes, I told him I'd think about it and try to go along with what he wanted, even though it made a liar out him and a heretic out of me. That day was about a week before Christmas 2006.

Although we talked every day and saw each other almost every day during that week before Christmas, I was deeply hurt that he'd gone back on his word... That we were supposed to be beginning a new life together and that now it's starting point would be the greatest lie and disappointment I'd ever experienced was a hard pill for me to swallow. But love is a strange thing, and my love for Stephen was true and absolute... and because of that, I found I was willing to do almost anything to make the one I loved happy. So, I struggled to resign myself to what he said he wanted for us and our relationship as I prepared for our first Christmas together.

Looking back on those days, I think in Stephen's mind, he believed that because we were going to celebrate Christmas together, that was a sufficient consolation for me... That November, when he told me about his not celebrating Christmas, I shared with him how the Christmas holiday had always had great significance to me in terms of tradition and more importantly, it's effect on my well-being. And so much to my happiness, he acquiesced and agreed that we'd celebrate the day together with the exchanging of gifts (as he admitted he'd always done with Mike Fisher) and a special dinner that I'd prepare for us.

When I explained the importance of Christmas to Stephen, I told him of how when I was a boy, Christmas was the only "peaceful and happy time" for me during the course of a year.  And as I explained what my life had been like before he came into it, he seemed to understand why Christmas still engendered such feelings for me. I told him of how when I was a boy in school, I was the subject of constant bullying and ridicule because somehow the other kids could tell I was gay... and of how I'd come home from that everyday, to experience the violence in my family's home resulting from the break up of my parent's marriage. And then, there was always my older brother to deal with... having discovered I was gay, he made life at home a living hell for me from when I was ten years old onward.


But at Christmas, there was "peace" - I didn't have to go to school, so no daily whipping from my father because I didn't want to go. There were no bullies to deal with, no fights, no running, no hiding... And my parents always declared a "Christmas Truce" and things were always calm (even loving) between them the entire week of Christmas and through to New Year's Day... Even my brother, who I had come to hate for his mistreatment of me, even he pretty much let me be during that time of year... Yes, "peace and goodwill," and something akin to "well-being" became highly associated in my mind with Christmas - so much so, that by Christmas Day 1980 (which was also the day my father left our family home for the last time) I would forever look forward to Christmas and the traditions and celebrations that reminded me of the two weeks or so that I felt human every year as a troubled boy and later a fearful young man unable to embrace the truth of his own heart.

And so, I decided to relish my consolation and to thank Stephen for his consideration of my "need" for Christmas, I told him the menu for our dinner would be whatever he wanted... This is what he chose:

Appetizer - Deviled Eggs and Relishes 

Soup - Creamy Tomato Basil 



Entree Beef Wellington and Asparagus with Holandaise Sauce


Desserts - Raisin Pound Cake, Petit Fours, Yule Log, Butter Cookies, Miniature Patis Chou 

Wines - Hearty Burgundy and Cherry Merlot

And even though my heart was very heavy realizing he was not a man of his word - not the man I thought he was... but because I loved him, I prepared for Christmas by cleaning the house and shopping for the special meal he wanted.  And although I was still very upset by Stephen’s failure to follow through on his promise that we’d be married, all that week I prepared for a Christmas to remember.

I didn’t do elaborate decorations, in fact nothing like what Stephen had been used to seeing at Mike Fisher’s mansion, but instead I set out my table top Christmas tree, and on the server in the dining room, my Nativity Scene. A hearty Poinsettia on the living room coffee table rounded out the decorations that year. In the Florida room, which is where we’d spend most of our evenings, the 15 or so Christmas cards that had arrived were the focal point of my holiday decor in that room.


I had to work all that week leading up to Christmas, including that Saturday. So on Sunday morning, Christmas Eve, I got up early to start my preparations for our Christmas dinner. I baked the desserts and finished the last of the house cleaning. At the time, I had been doing some redecorating and painting around the house… So that afternoon, I was re-hanging some paintings and other art on the walls when I remembered that I hadn’t bought any ginger ale (Stephen likes ginger ale), so I decided to run out to the store to get some.


I was gone about 40 minutes, and when I returned home, as I opened the front door, I heard a loud crash. But I didn’t think twice about it though, as I had hung a large painting over the bed just a couple of hours earlier and I was doubtful about the size of the hooks I’d used… And so when I heard the crash, my first thought was, “That picture just fell…” But as I opened the vestibule door, I saw the source of the noise. On the floor about 10 feet in front of me, at the foot of the staircase were several boxes (Christmas gifts for my family) that had been in one of the guest bedroom closets. Within a fraction of a second, I realized that I had a burglar in the house with me and that he was probably standing just out of my sight on the staircase.


As my heart was racing, so was my mind… what to do? Then almost without thinking, I shouted, “I’m gonna go out, so you can!” And with that said, I slowly backed out of the front door. And just as I stepped across the threshold, I saw the burglar step off the stairs and run towards the back of the house. I called the police from my cell phone while standing on my front porch. When I told the operator what was happening, she said a car was on the way and then she asked what I was wearing… I couldn’t help asking her why she wanted to know, and she explained she wanted to inform the responding officers so that I wouldn’t be mistaken for the intruder. I promptly told her that I had on black twill slacks, a plaid shirt, a black sweater and a beige jacket. The operator told me to wait outside for the police who should be arriving in a moment.

My call to 911 lasted less than a minute and though help was said to be on the way, I felt frightened to be outside in the cold waiting for the police. In my mind, I wanted to be cared for and so I called Stephen and he answered almost immediately… I told him what was happening, and he said he was on his way… he told me to stay on the phone with him and he told me not to worry, I’d be alright and he was on his way.  As I talked to Stephen, I walked towards the back yard thinking I could tell the police in which direction the burglar had gone. But when I reached the gate, in the darkness I couldn’t see much in the yard.  But then I  noticed some movement at the alley gate next to the garage.

The burglar was huddled in the corner next to the locked gate which he couldn’t get open. Suddenly, he turned and saw me looking at him and he ran towards me out of the narrow passageway between the fence and the garage. And as I described this scene to Stephen, he told me to run, but I couldn’t seem to move my feet. Thankfully, the burglar didn’t come towards me as he cleared the garage, but instead he ran to the other corner of the yard where the fence is only four feet tall. I remember that I watched transfixed, as the burglar struggled to climb the ornamental fence. In hindsight, it was almost comical to see him struggling to get a leg over the fence as there was no place to get a foot hold through the vertical pickets. And in a brief moment of insane thought, I wanted to go give him a leg-up, just so that he’d be gone.


Finally, the burglar made it over the fence and just as I watched him run down the alley, I heard a police cruiser come to a screeching halt in front of the house. I told Stephen to hold on as I walked towards the police with my hands up saying I was the homeowner. I told them that the burglar had just run down the alley and I pointed in the direction he’d gone as I told them what he was wearing… in a flash the two police officers took off running for the corner. I put the phone back to my ear and Stephen said he was in the car and on his way. He told me not to go into the house until the police came back as the thief might not have been alone. I told him that I wouldn’t and that I’d be waiting for him. As I hung up, a strange sense of calm washed over me and I realized that I felt “safe and loved” and I thought to myself, maybe what Stephen had been saying could work.

A minute or two later, I saw the police walking back towards the house, the burglar had escaped. They asked if I’d gone back in and I told them I hadn’t. They asked me to wait on the porch as they searched the house to ensure no one else was hiding anywhere. In a few moments they came back downstairs and waved for me to come in. They asked me all the particulars: what had happened; the time I discovered the break-in; my name and contact information, etc. They showed me the window in the Florida room that the burglar had broken to gain entry into the house. He’d thrown a huge chunk of concrete through one of the largest windows in the house.

The police officers were really kind and complimented me on the work they could see I’d put into my old house. They asked me if I was living here by myself… I said, “Yes, but I hope that’s changing soon…” a thinly veiled reference to Stephen and I beginning our life together.  But I didn’t say more than that and I let them assume whatever they wanted to. They asked me not to touch anything in the house if I could help it, as "CSI" and the detectives where coming. The officers said they’d try to get the burglars finger prints and collect a DNA sample from the blood he left behind as he had cut himself climbing through the broken window. They said the detectives would arrive shortly and asked if I’d be okay by myself… I told them someone was on the way and with that they left.

After the police left, I stayed at the front door watching for Stephen, and in a couple of minutes, he arrived and I was relieved. He ran up to the door and came in asking me if I was okay. As I shut the door, he put his arms around me and told me everything would be okay, he said he loved me (and I believed him) and I felt safe. I told him we had to be careful to not touch anything as I took him back to show him where the burglar had broken in. I remember that year, it was very cold that night and the house was freezing as cold air rushed through the broken glass. Stephen and I sat in the living room to wait for the detectives and the CSI technicians.


I lit the fireplace to give us some warmth, and as we sat together in the dimly lit room with the shadows from the fire dancing on the walls around us. I realized that I felt more safe than I had ever felt in my life… to paraphrase Stephen, I felt like I was “not alone in the world.” As we sat there together, he told me as he drove to the house, he was scared something might happen to me… He said he didn’t know what he’d do without me. Then he kissed me, saying he was glad I was okay, and that he’d prayed for that as he was driving. As we sat there waiting for the detectives, through the windows we could see a few snowflakes beginning to fall, it looked like a white Christmas would be arriving later that night.

As we watched the snow softly falling creating a fluffy white blanket over everything, an unmarked police cruiser with the detectives pulled up in front of the house. I went to the door and I invited them in and they asked me to show them where the burglar had come in. I took them through the house while telling them what happened and they and I sat at the dining room table as they filled out their reports. Stephen stayed in the living room sitting next to the little Christmas tree, not quite in hiding, but not making himself fully present either.  As the detectives finished their paper work, one of the men called the CSI techs asking them how long before they’d arrive and was told they we already on their way. After a few more minutes sitting at the dining room table exchanging pleasantries with the detectives, the CSI team arrived.


When the door bell rang, I listened to see if Stephen would go to the door… When he didn’t, I excused myself, went to the door and then escorted them to the detectives in the dining room. I excused myself again and I went to the living room to ask Stephen if he was okay. He said he was and that he was going to wait for me there until the police were gone. I said, okay. The detectives had me show the CSI officers the two bedrooms the burglar had ransacked and when I did, I left them to do their work of trying to collect fingerprints. When I came back downstairs, the detectives said the CSI team would take over from there and that after they’d done their work downstairs and in the Florida room, I could board up the broken window. I thanked them for their prompt response and I showed them to the door.

I went to the living room and I told Stephen what was happening and that I loved him. He whispered in a faint soft voice, that he loved me too just as we heard the CSI techs come down the stairs. They said they wouldn’t be too much longer and then we could board up the window. I left Stephen again to gather my tools and I went out to the garage to see if I had some suitable lumber and boards to close up the window opening. When I went back into the house, the technicians said they were through inside and wanted me to show them the part of the fence where the burglar might have touched it. I showed them and they thought they’d be able to lift prints from the smooth surfaces of the fence pickets. While they worked, I measured the window and out in the yard, I cut some plywood and a 2x4 brace to fit into the window.


I went inside and asked Stephen to help me by holding the board up from the inside while I drilled the holes to insert the bolts through the board and the brace. While I was doing this, the CSI techs had moved to the other corner of the yard where the burglar had managed to the climb the fence. Just as I finished fastening the board, their flashlights gave out and I told them I’d get them one from the house. When I came back with my lantern, they asked if I could open the gate so they could get to the back of the fence. I did and I held my lantern to light the way for them. As I was standing there watching them work, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something on the ground peaking through the snow… shining the lantern on it, I discovered the burglar had dropped his gun while climbing over the fence. The CSI techs carefully bagged and tagged it and commented on what a lucky escape I’d had… I agreed.


The CSI guys finished up and left and I told Stephen about the gun in the alley. He hugged me and said thank goodness I thought to go back out. Together we started to clean up the mess in the house. In the Florida room, there was shattered glass everywhere, it was like finely ground glass that embedded itself into the fabric of the sofa and chairs and pillows. We finally decided to try to vacuum it out of the fabric and that worked. Then we moved all of the furniture out of the room so we could clean the floor and then put everything back. Then we dusted the furniture in the other rooms and wiped down the doorknobs and door frames which were covered by the finger print dust that the CSI techs had used. We finally finished sometime after midnight, and Stephen asked me if he could stay the night with me. I smiled as I held him in my arms and said, “Please do stay with me, Dearest…”

After we showered, I got on my knees at the side of the bed to pray and Stephen joined me. I prayed aloud as I thanked God for protecting me from harm that day and for sending me my true love after such a long wait... I asked God to bless and keep us both, and to bless our love… And as we both said, “Amen” we climbed into bed in the still chilly house. As we listened to the gentle hum of the furnace running in the basement, Stephen snuggled up behind me and held me in his arms and said, “Merry Christmas, Dear Heart, I love you.” I turned and kissed him and said, “I love you too, with all my heart.” And as he held me in his arms, I drifted off to sleep that early Christmas morning…


When I woke later Christmas morning, I was still in Stephen's arms… I slowly turned to face him trying not to wake him. And as I lay there with his arm draped loosely over me, as I gazed into the face that had brought me both incredible joy and undeniable sorrow, I realized that a dream was coming true… It was in act one of the long-held, precious desires of my heart that was then after many, many years finally being fulfilled. For the first time in my adult life, I was not alone on Christmas again. I savored the moment as I wondered if Stephen could be right, that we could be one even without making the promises and commitments of marriage.

As the late morning sun began to beam brightly through the window, Stephen began to stir from his slumber… Finally, I dared to kiss him and as he opened his eyes, he smiled a kind of smile that I’d only rarely seen from him. He looked truly happy and I know that in that moment I was happy too. “Merry Christmas, Dearest,” was the first thing I said to him, and then I asked if he was ready for breakfast. He said he was hungry and that he wanted coffee as well. Leaving him with a parting kiss, I went to make our Christmas breakfast and his coffee. And a few minutes later, I came back with his coffee on a tray. I found him still in bed with a wonderfully wistful look on his face and when I asked what he was thinking about, he simply said, “How happy you make me.” I kissed him and told him breakfast would be ready in about 15 minutes.

I wasn’t quite done cooking when I heard Stephen coming down the steps with the coffee tray. He brought it into the kitchen and set it on the counter and then he kissed the back of my neck and went into the Florida room to wait for breakfast. Just as I was placing the food on the warmed plates, he came back to the kitchen doorway saying how drafty it was because of the boarded up window. He carried my plate and I carried his to the dining room table and he insisted that I sit at the head of the table that morning (a privilege I’d allowed him and no one else).

As we enjoyed our breakfast of steak and eggs, from where I was sitting, I could see the beautiful Christmas lights decorating the home of the neighbor at the corner. The beautiful scene of the lights blanketed in fluffy snow brought the joy of a White Christmas to life for the first time. With a beautiful holiday scene just outside the window and my beloved at my right hand, all seemed right with the world… it was a precious moment that I’ll never forget.



As I told Stephen of what I could see from the window, I told him of how I’d always wanted to see the Wayne County Lightfest in Hines Park, he promised we’d go together to see it. I was thrilled. As we ate and talked, I was truly happy… I told him of what it had felt like to be alone on all those Christmases past and how his being there with me made me truly happy. I shared with him some of my fondest recollections of Christmas when I was a boy. I told him about my favorite toy – “Grippity Gravity,” and how I’d been searching for one most of my adult life.



When we finished breakfast, I went and got some old towels and used them to insulate the gaps around the board in the window then I left him to watch television while I washed the dishes. When I returned in a few minutes, Stephen said the towels had really helped and I took my usual spot behind him on the sofa as he lay in my arms, his head upon my breast as we watched television. After a short while, Stephen stirred to say he was going to have to leave for a while… He said he had to change his clothes and then exchange Christmas gifts with Mike Fisher. Although my heart sank to hear him say that he was going, I didn’t let it show and I didn’t protest, I just asked what time he wanted to have our dinner. He said around 5, and though I hoped he’d be back sooner, I said, okay.


I got my coat and his, and I went out to brush the snow off of our cars and to shovel the walkways. He came out just as I got his car windows cleared and he paused in the street with me, saying he loved me and would be back as soon as he could. Though I could sense he wanted to kiss me, I could also tell he was afraid to though there was no one else on street. I said, “I love you, hurry back to me, Dearest… You’re my reason,” and with that said, Stephen jumped in his car and drove away as I waved to him. As I shoveled the snow from the walkways, I reflected on how happy I felt. In my mind, I could hear my own voice offering God my thanks for having heard my prayers for someone to love… Already, this Christmas was different from all the rest.

When I came in from the snow, I lit the fireplace and I sat down next to the little Christmas tree where Stephen had been sitting the night before when the police were there. The glow of the fire seemed to cast a magic light on the room, and it was then that I realized just how different the world looked through the eyes of love… despite all that had happened the night before, everything seemed beautiful… all was right with the world. Then, the sound of a text message arriving stirred me from my happy daydream.


The text was from Stephen, it said, “I love you, Dear Heart. I’ll be back soon.” I quickly replied, “143-2” and then I went to finish preparing the special meal he asked for…

Although I had prepped most of the Christmas meal the day before, there was still quite a bit to do. I still had to sear the steaks, make the filling for and assemble the Beef Wellingtons; so when I got to the kitchen, I started with that. While I was sautéing the mushrooms, the phone rang and it was my sister, Lisa. She was calling to wish me a merry Christmas and to again invite me to her family’s Christmas dinner. I thanked my sister and told her that I was busy cooking a meal for Stephen and I, but that if it was okay, we’d (Stephen and I) stop by later to bring them a gift. My sister said, “Of course you can come by, we’d love to meet Stephen.” Hearing my sister say that was like another dream come true… finally, I could share my love for another with my family.


While I was wrapping the Wellingtons, my older sister called… Like Lisa, Jean wished me a merry Christmas and I mentioned that I might stop by later to bring her a gift. She said that would be wonderful… I told her that I might not be alone, and it took her a moment to figure out what I meant, then with a very verbal “ohhhh,” she too said, “Okay.” I thanked her and told her I loved her and that I appreciated her willingness to be accepting of who I love. I went back to work in the kitchen, and just as I was finishing the deviled eggs, another phone call… it was Billy, he wished me “Happy Christmas” and asked if I’d gotten his gift in the mail. I told him that I had received his package, but that I hadn’t opened it yet… I had been waiting for Christmas Day. He informed me that as it was now Christmas, I could open it, but I told him I would later in the day as I thanked him for it and for his continued love and friendship.

The whole time I was talking to Billy, I felt very uncomfortable… it felt wrong to be talking to him, although our conversation was only that of “friends.” I’d told Stephen a great deal about Billy and what a wonderful man I’ve thought him to be. I knew that I’d tell Stephen that I’d talked to him, but I was afraid it might somehow ruin the mood of the day. I thought perhaps Stephen might be jealous. As I put the finishing touches on the desserts and seasoned the soup, I pondered when and how I’d tell Stephen about the call and also about the gift that had come a few days before. When Stephen and I “committed” ourselves to each other and were planning our marriage, I knew that soon I’d have to end my friendship with Billy.

I was truly afraid that the innocent phone call from Billy, combined with the as yet unknown gift might upset Stephen. As I ironed the table clothes and napkins I recalled the letter that I wrote for Billy, but never sent… it was how I was going to tell him about Stephen and our being married. Once the table was set and everything in the kitchen was in readiness, I sat down at my laptop and re-read the letter that I still hoped I’d “need” to someday send to Billy…

January 15, 2007

Dear Billy,

I hope your holidays were happy and that you’ve made your move to Virginia successfully. I am doing well; my health and mindset are both much improved. I think of you and Barbara often and I hope that both of you are doing well.

I’m writing to first thank you for the years of friendship that we’ve shared. You of course know that you are and have been much more than a friend… I truly have loved you and I care for you still. There will always be a special place in my heart for you.

I often wonder if you have been reading my blog on Yahoo! 360. If so, then what I want to share with you here won’t be much of a surprise. I wanted to write today to tell you about someone very special that I’ve met. His name is Stephen, and he is a wonderful man who in many ways reminds me of you. Like you, he is a warm and caring person who loves me genuinely and who also loves God.

Stephen and I met six months ago and have been seeing each other for the last four months. We both realized immediately that there would be more between us than just friendship… We are very close to one another and very much in love and we have joined our lives together. We were legally married in Canada today.

Stephen is employed in the internal audit field and we’ll soon both be relocating from the Detroit area to his next assignment location, probably somewhere in the south. As you can imagine, I am very deeply in love with Stephen to be willing to so drastically change my life in this way. I am happy and I am thankful that God has brought Stephen and I together.

I am also very thankful that you and I had the time together which we did. You were and still are very precious to me Billy. As you might imagine, having now joined my life to Stephen’s it would be difficult for you and I to continue the friendship that we’ve had. Nevertheless, you’ve been a wonderful friend and it is not lightly that I tell you that I won’t be able to write again. Although I still love you as my friend and I will always pray for your well being, I don’t want to give Stephen any cause to doubt my love and fidelity. Because I know you to be a kind, caring, and generous man, I know you’ll understand this.

I thank you my dear friend, you brought joy to my life and have brought me happiness with every card, letter, message and call since that wonderful and painful summer when we met. Billy, I will never forget you, not ever. I hope you’ll be happy for me and know that if it is the desire of your heart, I hope that you’ll meet that special someone who can bring you the happiness that I’ve found with Stephen.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that you too will find your own pleasant tide of life. Perhaps we will meet again someday and I will have the pleasure of introducing to each other the two men who have truly made me happy and brought me joy. Please pray for Stephen and I and know that God hears your name in my prayers always.

In fond remembrance,

Christopher

As I was pondering my letter to Billy, I was impressed by how unique and how much more intense my love for Stephen felt, even as I wondered to myself, “How is it that Stephen could hurt me as he has and yet I loved him even more each day?” I was stirred from that deep thought by Stephen calling, it was 4:30 and he said he was on his way back… I told him dinner would be waiting and that I loved him with all my heart – Stephen said he loved me too, and with that I put on some Christmas music and began the last minute preparations for his requested meal.


I was watching from the window when Stephen pulled up in front of the house. I watched him as he took his overnight bag from the back seat along with a lime green gift bag that I knew would be my Christmas gift from him. As he came up the walk, I met him at the front door. When he stepped in from the snow and the winter chill, as I leaned in to kiss him, he put his arms around my waist and pulled me in close to a tight embrace. He gave me a long and deep kiss and I imagined that paradise could not be any more wonderful than that moment.

As we broke our embrace, I looked intently at his face… He had a calm smile on his lips, and his eyes burned with a passionate glow. He said he’d missed me, and that dinner smelled wonderful. I said, “I missed you too – I love you, Stephen.” He dropped his bag in the hallway and I took his hand to lead him to the dining room and I seated him at the head of my table… Indeed, in my mind, I had seated him as the head of my life. I brought the appetizers out while he opened the wine. And as we sat together, the light from the setting sun shining through the stained glass doors behind him bathed the dining room in surreal multicolored hues that seemed to say, “This is Love at Christmas.”


As we laughed and talked, I brought out our meal in courses, first the soup and then the entrée. We ate and we were full – filled with love for each other and what looked like true happiness as I gazed at his face and listened to him speak from his heart. We retired to the Florida room and I left him so that I could clear the table and set out the desserts. When I came back to him, he asked if I was ready for my present… I said I was, and that I wanted to open my other gifts with his. I went to the living room and brought my gift to him and the handful of gifts from my family and Billy’s package as well.

As we sat together in anticipation of revealing our gifts to each other, I told him that Billy had called me while he was away and I showed him the package from Billy. He asked what I thought it was, and I said I really didn’t know, as I explained how Billy had sent me a Christmas gift every year since we’d met. I told him I wouldn’t open it and I’d return it to Billy if he wanted me to, but he said, “No, I don’t mind it.” I told Stephen I wanted us to exchange our gifts first because he was, “first in my life…” And with that, we exchanged our gifts and explained to each other why we’d picked what we did.

Although I opened the other gifts, the ones from my family, I left Billy’s package unopened. After a little while, Stephen and I settled into each other arms to watch television. As Stephen lay in my arms holding me close, he’d look up at me and tell me he loved me, and each time he said it, it seemed truer than the time before. I told him he made me very happy and that, “I could only be happier if we were getting married in three weeks.” He gave me a disapproving look and said, “Don’t talk about that, don’t think about it…” And so, not wanting to spoil what had been the most perfect day of my life, I said no more about it.

We enjoyed our desserts and then I asked if we could go to take my gifts to my family. Stephen said it was too late in the day for that, although I explained that in my family, our tradition has always been to not exchange and open gifts until late in the evening on Christmas Day. But he complained that he was tired and just wanted to be alone with me. Hearing that was enough for me and we settled back on the sofa, Stephen in my arms, me happier than I’d ever been before in the whole of my life.


Hours had passed without notice or care… when eleven o’clock arrived; I asked Stephen if he was ready to go to bed. Stephen had not said he was planning to stay, but when he came back that afternoon with his overnight bag, I knew he would. He said he was ready, but then he asked why I hadn’t opened Billy’s gift. I asked if he really wanted me to and he said, yes. I opened it and it was a CD along with a note explaining why he’d picked it for me. I let Stephen read the note and the lovely Christmas card that was also in the package. Stephen set the card and note down without saying anything and I put the CD in the coffee table drawer, as I asked again if he was ready to go up to bed.

Stephen smiled as I stood up and extended him my hand… As we made our way through the house, I picked up his bag in the hallway and still holding his hand, I led him up the stairs while telling him how happy I was that he was there with me. He simply smiled, as he said, “I love you,” the whole while still holding my hand tightly. In the bedroom, as we undressed and then as we together washed and brushed our teeth, we both knew that it had been a day we’d both remember.


Finally, we both knelt at the side of the bed to say our prayers silently… My prayer was simply one of thanksgiving for the day for which I’d waited a lifetime… Then we climbed between the cool sheets and under the comforter. And as we pressed our warm nakedness together, Stephen held me tightly in his arms and whispered in my ear, “Good night, Christopher ‘Harris’ Flournoy, I love you.” I fell asleep happy and safe in the arms of the one I loved, and who at least in that moment, I believe loved me… As I began to drift off, my last thought was of finally knowing beyond any doubt, what “Joy at Christmas” was all about…


The morning after Christmas, I woke up around 5 a.m. I was still being held in Stephen’s arms and I didn’t want to wake him, so I just lay still, somewhat enjoying the moment, but thinking about what the day might have in store for us… would the magic of Christmas come to an end today? When he finally began to stir, I asked if he’d mind if I went for a run. He said no and I eased out of his arms and out of bed, got dressed in my running gear and gave him a kiss saying I’d be back soon. He said he’d be waiting for me. I went downstairs, said my prayers, did a few exercises to stretch, and off I went for a three mile run. When I got back, I crept up the stairs and gazed at Stephen from the bedroom door. He looked asleep, so I whispered, “I’m back, Dear.” When he said nothing, I went to have a shower.

When I got back to the bedroom after my quick shower, Stephen was still tucked under the covers, so I got back in bed with him and he pulled me close and just held me tight while whispering, “I love you, Christopher” in my ear. I turned to face him as I asked, “How much do you love me?” He said, “With all my heart, Dear.” And I believed that he meant it, at least in that moment. We shared passionate kisses as we made love and then fell asleep in each other’s arms with me listening to the sound of his heart beating, believing that perhaps love was enough.


We finally stirred from our loving slumber around noon. After we showered and dressed, we went downstairs and I made brunch for us. As we ate and enjoyed each other’s company, we talked about what we wanted to do with the rest of the day. Stephen said he wanted to go to the after Christmas sales at the stores. I said I’d like that, and I suggested that we could go to the Lightfest later that evening; he said we would do that too. I did the dishes and we went shopping. We didn’t go to many places, but the one place I remember distinctly was to Best Buy. It stands out in my recollection because of something that happened. While we were there, Stephen bought a TVonDVD of “The 4400,” a show he said he liked, but that I’d never seen.


When we got to the checkout, the clerk asked Stephen if he belonged to Best Buy’s “Reward Zone” loyalty program. Stephen said he did but that he didn’t have his card. The clerk said she could look up his number, so Stephen gave his name, and the clerk asked for his address. Stephen said, “150 West Boston, Detroit.” The clerk couldn’t find his number and asked if there could be any other address and Stephen asked what addresses she had… when the clerk got to Carnarti Drive, Charlotte,” Stephen said, “That’s it.” As I listened, it struck me as strange that he’d have registered an address in another city, so when we got to the car, I asked him about it.

When I asked about the Charlotte address, Stephen was visibly shaken… I wondered why? Eventually, he said it was just an address he used when he was there on a project. As he said that, for the first time, I was able to instantly perceive that he was lying to me. I pointed out to him that he’d never mentioned it, although we’d talked at length about the different places he’d been. As I looked at him, I could see that his face was painted with the color of “fear.” Then suddenly a flash of anger came across his face as he said, “Why are you questioning me?” I told him I was sorry, and that I didn’t mean to upset him, and I let it drop. As Stephen drove us home, he held my hand for most of the way, as I pondered in silence, why he was lying to me and why did it upset him for me to ask about Charlotte.


By the time we got back home, I had put the troubling lie out of my mind completely. As we walked through the door, Stephen said he was getting hungry so I prepared dinner while he watched television and made some phone calls. By the time we finished with our dinner nightfall had arrived. I suggested that we should visit my family to take my gifts to them. At first Stephen said he didn’t want to go, but would instead wait for me to go and return. I told him that no one in my family would mind him coming along and that my sisters were anxious to meet him. I told him he had nothing to fear, and when I asked him to come along for my sake, he gave in and said he would. I gathered the gifts and Stephen offered to drive.

When we got to my younger sister’s home, Stephen said he didn’t want to intrude on them… I reminded him that Lisa and her husband and children were very accepting and would graciously welcome us as a couple. He looked afraid and so I decided not to insist. I left him in the car parked on the street as I went in and made my apologies for Stephen not joining me. I didn’t want to leave Stephen by himself out in the cold, so I quickly gave my gifts and expressed my love for my sister and her family and then I left. When I got back to the car, Stephen still had a frightened look on his face and as we drove across town to my older sister’s home, I wondered why?

When we got to Jean’s home, the same thing happened… Stephen didn’t want to go in. I accepted that maybe he just wasn’t ready to meet my family and be openly acknowledged as my “significant other.” Stephen had earlier that year expressed that fear about me meeting any of his family when he said we were going to Disneyworld. So again, I left him in the car as I hurriedly went in to give my gifts and to say hello to everyone. When I came back out, Stephen still had that same nervous and frightened look on his face, so I said, “Let’s go back home now, I’ll take my brother and father their gifts tomorrow…” Stephen looked relieved and that made me feel better. I found that his happiness meant far more to me than my own.


When we got back home, we decided to cut the cake that Lisa had given me while I was visiting with her and her family. Stephen asked me for ice cream with his, and as we enjoyed it, I asked him why he was so uncomfortable about meeting my family. At first he didn’t say anything, but when he finished his dessert, he finally said, “I just don’t want to upset anyone.” I told him he wouldn’t have because my family would accept and love him because I loved him. With that said, I suggested that maybe we could cap our evening by going to the Lightfest as he’d promised. Stephen said he was tired and we could go later in the week since it ran through New Year’s Day. Although I was deeply disappointed, I said, “Okay,” but, strangely, I didn’t believe him, I knew he was lying… but I let it go and we settled into each other’s arms to watch television.

Stephen stayed with me again that night, and from that day onward, he more or less stayed every night. By the second week of January 2007 (when we were supposed to have married), Stephen was for all intents and purposes living with me… We ate all our meals together; we slept together, and did almost everything else together. As the intimacy and intertwining of our lives progressed, although there was at times great joy and happiness, almost every day brought a new reason for concern about just exactly what Stephen Christopher Harris’ intentions truly were. Nevertheless, I loved him with all my heart and I shared with him all that I had. I loved him more with every passing day even as more lies were revealed and I struggled to believe in him and trust his heart…

But despite all that later happened in our life, his life, and my life since that fateful day, now more than 6 years ago, that Christmas when Stephen Christopher Harris first came into my life brought more peace, more joy, and more happiness than I’d ever known before...


"I am always remembering..."


“Fear Eats the Soul”



* Originally published in six part during July 2009.


"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1206"


"Love And Marriage, Life And Home...


Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.



"The Imitation Of Life..."


"Babysitting Andy" - A funny, surprising look at dysfunctional families and "grown-up talk."



"Gay PDA Is Okay!"


"When There Is Love The World Is A Safe Place... Live Fearlessly"





Sunday, December 30, 2012

"I Am Always Remembering..."


I remember the popularity of this song as immortally performed by the one and only Bill Withers.  It would go on to become his signature song and be covered many times by artists from genres ranging from gospel to rock and country.  In 1973, my older brother William received an organ for Christmas and this was the first song he mastered.

"I am always remembering..."



"This Made Me Smile..."

As we end Christmas week, a gift of laughter from our British cousins...


"Merry Christmas"



"Gay PDA Is Okay!"


"Let Nothing Come Between Love... Live Fearlessly"





"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1205"


"This Is Love, Life And Home...


Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.




"The Imitation Of Life..."


"Honeypot" - Interesting, surprising, entertaining and thought provoking.

"Fear Eats the Soul"


"Love Looks Like This..."





"Fear Eats the Soul"




Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The Poet's Corner..."


"Love is no hot-house flower, but a wild plant, born of a wet night, born of an hour of sunshine; sprung from wild seed, blown along the road by a wild wind. A wild plant that, when it blooms by chance within the hedge of our gardens, we call a flower; and when it blooms outside we call a weed; but, flower or weed, whose scent and colour are always wild!"

- John Galsworthy



"The Imitation Of Life..."


"All Over Brazil" - When its 1974 and you're 13 years old with dreams of being fabulous in Scotland.

"Fear Eats the Soul"


"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1204"


"The Day We Became One... Love, Marriage And Honor


Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.



"Because Love Is Love..."

Congratulations to Michael Snell and husband Steven Bridges, the first same-sex couple to marry just after midnight last night in Maine where marriage equality is now the law.


"Fear Eats the Soul"


"The Artist's Corner..."

"Skylight"
Acrylic on canvas
Steve Walker



"Gay PDA Is Okay!"


"Love Overcomes All Obstacles... Live Fearlessly"



Friday, December 28, 2012

"The Imitation Of Life..."


"Contact" - Interesting Austrailian short film about fear, truth, family, longing and desire.

"Fear Eats the Soul"



"Gay PDA Is Okay!"


"Love Casts Shadows That Reach To Eternity... Live Fearlessly"




"The Artist's Corner..."

"Christmas Kiss"
Acrylic on canvas
Joe Phillips



"Same Gender Loving People - 1203"


"Love, Marriage And Family...


Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.


"The Lover's Moon..."


"I am always remembering..."



Thursday, December 27, 2012

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