His name is George: a father of one, separated from the mother of his son (and a few years back from his son too), a photographer and visual artist by profession who loves fast cars and hot girls, and when he has one too many drinks, turns embarrassingly red. As a man who isn’t very fastidious when it comes to doing things properly, he’s not coy about his personal troubles (which explain the drinking although he’s far from a drunkard) but isn’t that reckless to lay it all down on the line. He likes what he likes and follows it, never mind the obvious complications of the situation he plans to put himself in. In his own words, “doon ako kung saan masaya.”
That’s his first fault.
People mistake him as naïve and even careless, and I have once accused him of having no ambition. Like me, he’s stubborn as a mule and can be shockingly blunt you might think of him imprudent. But just like his lifestyle and personal philosophy, he sees things the way he wants it to be, not necessarily as they are, but based on how they are relevant to his ways. I wouldn’t call him selfish or insensitive for that but he’s definitely far from being anchored in common sense.
And that’s his second fault.
Had things gone the convenient route, we would be still good friends. I’d like to think we still are, even if our only mode of communication is through Facebook, and even if he wears me down with grammatically incorrect and seemingly ignorant Facebook statuses and comments. But we haven’t seen each other for over two years now and it’s unlikely we will soon considering his brazen stubbornness, his passionate dedication to his work, and his more than happy love life, all of which are easy excuses to decline any invitation for a drink. From his social media posts (which are all I have to base his current life on), he looks like a man having his fun, maybe a little skinnier than before (which has me worried), and maybe foolishly thinking he’s still young and void of responsibilities but overall, like the chap I know who is more in the present than I could hope to be. Then again, I always seem to be envious of someone else.
See, George is perhaps the only straight man I had a good friendship with. Yes, for the purposes of full disclosure, I liked him. And yes, during our days together in the same office, I was more interested in him than even our six-foot-three, blonde, and blue-eyed, Australian boss. But it was George’s frustrating stubbornness I liked most, and his unfussiness which put me at ease with him. He’s no hunk, and he’s not exactly a head-turner. Bespectacled and always wearing his favourite blue jacket (one he left at the office and perhaps never took to the laundry), he exhibited no effervescence, no sexual and masculine appeal that could pinpoint to how and why, as I am writing this, I am inclined to sentimentalise him. He’s not even taller than me (personal preference here). Very few straight men I’ve had the opportunity to meet are as contrary to what I like in a man than him, but it is precisely his annoying qualities, rather than his appearance, which lends a ‘realness’ to his character. So while he carries a certain amount of baggage (see above faults), he has little pretensions, and fewer physically arousing qualities, it’s easy to be disarmed by his friendly nonchalance.
I know a number of straight men who, like George, see past the sexual preference of a person. From college alone, I have a good number of male classmates who didn’t really mind I was sleeping over to finish a project or wasn’t embarrassed at my occasional flamboyance. They had little qualms about my quirks and seemed to enjoy my company. In hindsight, maybe it was because they knew I wasn’t attracted to them which made them feel comfortable around me. Still, none had George’s unique ability to make you feel it’s okay to be yourself (and George knew I liked him). While this sounds like a PSA or even an admission of a seemingly utilitarian and ego-based friendship, it’s true. He did me good by providing the masculine approval I missed growing up.
Most straight men usually proclaim, whether by action or by words, they have no problem with gay men but would be the first to exclaim once they become fathers, they’ll beat their sons if ever they turn up on the pink side, or use the gay label like “bakla” in a derogatory manner, associating it with weakness or cowardice. Others are simply (and understandably) hesitant to be associated with a gay man fearing people would think they’re gay too. We’ve all heard of such stories. Straight men supposedly dislike gay men because they might be inclined to make advances, while gay men look at straight men rather condescendingly. On a personal note, I have never pressured straight men to accept me and I have found it appalling when other gay men, through condescension or coercion, do so. I’m one for dialogue but if someone doesn’t like me, I would rather spend my time somewhere else than get in an argument throwing around words like bigot, hypocrite, or old-fashioned. And maybe that’s what George and I share in common: a preference for the simpler things (he’s better at it, for obvious “writer’s reasons”).
Constantly surrounded by gay men and a parade of female friends, George had always stuck out like a sore thumb in my circle. It’s the different perspective he brings to the table which I like (and dislike) the most. His opinions, stories, anecdotes and commentary on just about anything, while often trivialized or made fun of by my colleagues back then, always struck me as achingly true in their simplicity, and sometimes too true for my own comfort. Yet more than his own share of life, he listened when it was someone else’s turn to vent, to pour out, to exclaim, to grieve, to celebrate. He listened intently that you felt important. It’s easy to mistake that attention he gives you as something romantic (something I am guilty of) but looking back, it’s truly nothing more but an almost fraternal affection, a sense of familiarity, a strange kindness from the kind I’ve always feared (more on that when I’m ready). Jordan singlehandedly destroyed all notions I have of straight men as testosterone-filled, basketball-obsessed jerks, and restored my faith there are still people out there like him who offer friendship with no conditions.
During one of our Friday night drinks in the office, I learned his best friend was a gay man who had committed suicide. I never got the chance to ask how their friendship was and why his best friend took his own life. At that point in time, George was already too close for the frail and deluded heart of mine, and couldn’t see past the signs that all we were going to have was a really good friendship. Like many gay men who do find a straight guy as company, there was a belief at the back of my mind I could “convert” him. I yielded my reason to these beliefs because in a chaotically changing world George was unchanging, so touchingly unaffected, a man possessed by the brilliance of a simplicity he wasn’t aware of, an innocence most would never discern, and an inevitably flawed kindness incapable of sustaining something as rigorous as my emotional self. I had been “deprived” of masculine company for a good length of time, it required very little effort to start wanting for more of the good thing once I got it.
And that, unfortunately, is my biggest fault.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.