1976-1979—I moved to NYC for a position in a bank training program in October 1976 and almost immediately befriended another trainee: Bob was a Princeton grad, captain of his football team and a tight end who’d been drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots. He was smart, muscular, handsome, and charming, a combination that drew me to him like a bee to honey. I was smitten, but I kept my feelings to myself. Despite this, or perhaps because of my underlying attraction to him, we became quite close.
Early on, Bob invited me for drinks a few times in his apartment. On one visit, I met his beautiful sister, Ann, who was living with him while she sought more permanent lodging in Manhattan. While I secretly pined for Bob, Ann apparently had designs on me.
On a wintry Friday evening in January 1976, Ann called me up out of the blue, and asked what my plans were for the evening. I told her I was headed to see the movie Rocky alone and grab some dinner afterwards. It seemed a bit forward of her to ask if she could join me, since I’d only met her twice before. But, I sensed we’d be simpatico and invited her to come along, letting her know I had plans for later, so we would need to separate at midnight. However, as the evening wore on, and we had dinner and a few drinks at my father’s jazz club, I found myself liking her. The prospect of following through on my plans to hit a few gay bars grew less appealing.
“Didn’t you say you had plans at midnight?” Ann asked, glancing at her watch. It was well past midnight now.
“Well, yeah, but I’ve decided to forget about them, since we’re having such a good time.”
“Oh, where were you planning to go?”, she asked.
“A bar…” I replied hesitantly.
“What kind of a bar?” She asked, fishing for more.
Despite my intentions not to disclose my sexuality to her, I did. “A gay bar…” I said.
The cat was out of the bag and there was no turning back. With prompting from Ann, I shared my life story, how I was fairly newly “out”, and I even admitted that I was attracted to her brother. After more drinks and the continued sharing of intimate secrets, at 3 a.m., I drove Ann home on the icy Manhattan streets. When we reached her place, she invited me up for a drink.
“Really?” I replied, giving her an incredulous look.
“Don’t worry! You’re safe. I’m not going to rape you!” She exhorted.
I acquiesced, parked the car and followed her upstairs. Bob was away at the time. She poured us both a drink and, well, one thing let to another and we ended up in bed—Bob’s bed no less.
Soon afterwards, Ann moved in with me for a few months. We continued to have sex, but it was infrequent and our relationship was one of convenience and familiarity. I was helping her out with a place to stay and I liked her—although not quite as much as I liked her brother. Such was the life of a semi-closeted man in the seventies.
Meanwhile, I had introduced Bob to one of my fraternity brothers from Brown and they had moved into an apartment together near us. We partied together as much as possible, hanging out at Studio 54, Les Mouches, and other “in” nightclubs in Manhattan.
“Ann, is Bam (my nickname) gay?” Bob asked Ann one day, noticing the absence of sexual energy between us.
“Why don’t you ask him?” she replied.
The subject finally came up on one evening when we were sitting alone in Bob’s apartment getting drunk.
“Bam, how come it’s taken you so long to tell me you’re bisexual?” he blurted out, his arm around my shoulder.
“I’m actually gay, Bob” I replied, after a slight hesitation. I explained how it had always been difficult for me to tell straight men my secret. This seemed to bring us closer than we already were, and with my admission and its acceptance by Bob, my attraction to him doubled. I imagined signs he might be interested in me, too. Bob didn’t date anyone and turned down many women’s advances, although I later learned from a close mutual female friend, that they had slept together a few times.
“Don’t worry, Bam!” she consoled me, knowing of my attraction to him. “You didn’t miss much. He tossed me around like a sack of potatoes.” As a gay man, that sounded pretty appealing to me!
On top of that, Ann had confided that she thought Bob might be gay too. If his own sister thought that, I had reason to hope.
After our training program ended, Bob and I were placed in jobs in different areas of the bank, but our friendship prospered and we were thick as thieves for the next two years. At one point, I planned a much-needed vacation to visit my dad’s house on the island of St. Martin and invited Bob to join me. Did he want me to invite his sister or another friend to come with us? He said no. He just wanted a relaxing vacation with me. My imagination ran wild with the possibilities.
When we arrived in St. Martin, I had visions of replicating an earlier visit where I had seduced a Canadian backpacker and enjoyed a week-long romantic vacation idyll with him.
When Bob and I arrived there, we dropped our bags at the entrance to the house, began making pina coladas, smoking marijuana, and taking hits of amyl nitrate (also known as poppers). Donna Summer’s latest sexually-suggestive disco album was playing at full blast, as we sat on the terrace under a sky full of stars, made more vivid in this remote Caribbean island.
“What do you want to do next, Bam?” Bob lazily asked.
“I’d like to take another hit of poppers and then hold you.” I responded honestly.
“Bam, how do you tell someone who means as much as you do to me that you can’t give him what he needs?” he asked.
His words were said caringly, but hurt more than I could ever have imagined. After all, I’d only asked him for a hug. As much as I might have wanted to, I would never have pushed things beyond that point. I felt utterly rejected that he couldn’t give that much.
The rest of the week was a blur. I retreated inside myself, couldn’t shake the feeling of rejection, and was no doubt miserable company for him. It was so uncomfortable that, when the week ended, Bob raced onto the plane, while I stayed a second week with another friend who joined me. It was as if he couldn’t get away fast enough. Ann later tried to console me, suggesting that Bob might have been afraid that, if he had hugged me, he would have been tempted to go further, and he couldn’t let that happen.
When I returned to NYC, I tried to clear the air, apologizing for how I’d behaved the rest of our week together. Bob said it wasn’t a problem, but things weren’t the same and we drifted apart. I heard that he eventually rose to become head of an investment bank’s London trading operation, married a woman, and had several kids. I don’t know what became of him after that.
Bob was the last straight man with whom I allowed myself to become infatuated. The pain and frustration from such intense unrequited affection was too great to ever allow it to happen again.