I can't really remember how old I was. I may have been in my late thirties, maybe I was in my early forties. And I can't remember what time of year it was. But I can remember the dark of the night. I must have been alone that evening, strange enough, with a wife and children always close by. I can see myself, I seem like myself but also like a man I do not know, I can see myself in the attic, piling a few boxes full of loose papers and notebooks. Separating notebooks from one box and moving them to another, not poring through them yet pausing to make a few now inexplicable exclusions. Pulling a few things out and setting them safely aside.
I can see myself carrying those boxes down the stairs and out of the house to the sidewalk. I know I'd chosen to take these things out at night, late at night. They would only sit on the sidewalk for a few hours, there would likely be no passerby, no one to wonder at the contents of the boxes. I knew of course that the trash men came very early to my house. That by the time I was awake, these boxes full of loose papers and selected notebooks would be gone.
When I was a boy, I liked to draw.  I drew pictures of houses and I invented towns and countries for the houses to be in.  Sometimes I made maps of these places and sometimes I gave them names and histories.  And, when I was a little older, a young man, I liked to write stories.  Stories, and sometimes plays, even film scripts.  I collected these drawings and these stories and I kept them in boxes.  I never showed them to anyone, I just kept them in boxes, and in fact I was a little bit careful to make sure that no one saw them, they were mine and I just kept them in boxes.
By the time I was in high school, I was writing journals.  I wrote those journals in the spiral bound notebooks I used in class. I remember those journals quite well. There was nothing so incriminating in them, but there was much youthful angst and passion. The world was a dramatic place to me then. Everything seemed terribly important. My friends knew me as a writer, I was sure to write something someday.
And then it ended. Quite suddenly, I now see. It ended at a certain period at college, a period in which I was apparently making a few life decisions. Though I know I didn't see it for that at the time. Decisions about which parts of my personality were to stay and which were to go. I must have been a determined young man, because the parts I meant to go, went. Romantic notions of life as a writer. Resistance to the bourgeois life. Taking life very seriously. Self examination. And writing itself. And attraction to men....
I didn't write another personal word for the next twenty years. No stories. No poems. No screenplays, for heaven's sake. No letters that could not be read by an acquaintance.
And no journals.
That night, that dark night when I might have been thirty seven or I might have been forty two, that long night when I was for reasons now lost left alone in the house, that night when I crept out to the sidewalk carrying those boxes, in the dark so no one would see me, no one could see what I was doing, no one could rescue these things I was abandoning.
The drawings. The stories.  And the journals. I threw away all the journals. Years of journals. In an attempt, I only now recognize, an attempt to kill them. To kill parts of myself. All those journals, those simple spiral bound notebooks, the overwrought teenage prose, the insecure young man, the questions, the doubts, the steps across boundaries, out with the trash.
Then they were gone. And I forgot that night. I forgot the impetus, I forgot the feeling of relief at having them gone, I forgot the need to examine, to express, to expand.  Until I couldn't forget any longer.
Truth is, it’s very painful for me to see myself carrying those boxes out to the street. I can't remember what I was thinking or why I was doing what I was doing, but I can remember the thickness of the night air. I can feel the weight of the boxes as I carried them down the walk. I can see the notebooks, sitting amongst the week's trash. I had killed something. Something alive, heart beating.
A writer stops writing.  A writer stops writing stories and journals, a writer sends no more personal letters, a writer stops thinking about himself as a writer, a writer becomes only a reader.  And eventually the writer throws away all of his writings.  Until one night when he sits alone at his computer, on another warm evening, at age forty eight, living alone after years of living in a house with his wife and his children.  The apartment, new and unfamiliar, feels empty.  The phone, the phone which rang incessantly all those years in their house on the corner, is silent.  He looks at his reflection in the dark window glass. His short graying hair, his narrow face, his slim frame.  He isn’t making any plans and he isn’t making any decisions.  And then he starts.   He begins to tap out the story of his new life, and how he got there and where he might be going.

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Anonymous said...

I am so moved by your story of trying to rid yourself of that inner you, the journals and drawings likely full of clues if not overt expressions of your yearnings for men and unresolved sexual identity.

I too drew towns and maps and later people and wrote of travel and desire and later men and have kept those boxes of journals and sketchbooks forever and through 24 years of marriage. Some days I wonder if I died suddenly what my son and wife would make of the real me - the tragic-romantic searcher, the yearning sobbing seeker, still a part of that me behind the facade they know now as the accomplished mature professional. And behind all also the man who loves men but has denied it forever.

Like you I am an architect- and I even lived in Cambridge for a short while, a mecca for architects and creatives, and also for men seeking other men.

Last year as I resumed sex with men after many years of abstinence, still married, but at last coming out to myself as at least bisexual, and maybe gay. Last march I started a blog, as you have, that has replaced the journals and sketchbooks as the new form of diary and self expression and charting of my new life- both private and public as it is. You have done the same. I think about razor blading out all the incriminating evidence, yet never get to it because perhaps one day I will be brave enough to come out to them and the world and my history will make sense and maybe be a lesson for others? Who knows.

I encourage you to move on now and use this blog as your creative endeavor and dare to share old unresolved pieces of yourself along with new insights and perspectives and experiences. I so want you to succeed in this new life, clearer of old trappings and earlier in your life path than so many of us. But I do feel bad you had to throw all the old out to become new.

I hope you, like me, will find a few new men friends who send you e-mails and help you along this new life path you are making. The most important point - you may have thrown all that past recording away and stand naked in the wind looking at an uncertain future, but you are not alone, and many of us are out here to exchange experiences with you.

Paul said...

Thanks so much for your comment and I wish you the best with your exploration. The events I am now recounting, as I refer to in the post prior to this one, are from some years ago. The process of coming out in middle age, while not without it's trauma, did lead for me to a renewed life. I have a partner, a circle of close gay friends, and, as well, my family. Be well and thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Paul- I realized you were writing of your past when I went back and read through your earlier posts - I had discovered you in some mid journey writing and linked my blog to you, but had not read all you write. So you are resolved and ended your marriage and are in love with a man living the open gay life. How wonderful an outcome for you. For many of us still trying to figure out how much men really mean to us, yours is one of the paths we may end up taking, but that is not yet clear to me. I am inspired however to know you came through it all and have found a loving partner.

Your writing is moving and I will become a more regular reader now that I have rediscovered you.

Thanks for your blog and your nice reply to me.

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kamervari said...

I've always thought that each humane is unique and always rejected classifications, group identities but here i wonder to similarities among us. What Paul said about maps, names and histories - it was my experience too. Diaries, my dream to be architect... In addition , i liked translate German poetry on love into Russian and even Bashkir languages, but never published it. Tried to write his own verses in order to still unbearable pain and longing for "emanation of God's Beauty".
My difference made me blessed and cursed simultaneously, but i would be never able to live that simple common life of other "normal" people. Our eyes open, our hearts much more sensitive to unjustice, sufferings of other creatures, to hypocracy, meanness...although sometimes we are not enough brave and strong to finish initiated new big ideas.
I am 54 and aging, when in 54 you still have teenager's heart,especially hard to me. I like their music, their movies and my hopeless infatuation histories what i always kept in deep secret were related to age 19 or 20 - the most beautiful age of humans. That longing was impetus to studiing of two eastern(Persian and Turkush) and two two western (German and English)languages as well, because it feels me, that i can understand such Love namely through Rumi and Hafiz directly. We are always unsecure not only in ordinary life, moreover, each day we need invent for ourselves something new, warm, fragrant ,exciting. We have acute need for communication. I really enjoyed your blog. Thanks so much.

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john said...

I tried to publish before, not sure where my original comment went. I was trying to convey that you threw away unsettled emotions? Perhaps this was a cleansing?

Iain said...

Oh dear. That’s all so moving. It resonates so much with me but I’m so early in my journey. Reading your post has triggered so many thoughts and recollections in me. I feel like I’m standing watching a tsunami coming and I don’t know where to run or what to do. There seems to be so little out there, to read and help. I’m sure there are so many men from our generation in the same situation. I hope current generations don’t suffer the same persecution, ridicule and intolerance. I fear they do.

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