My throat clenched tightly and my eyes began to swell. I looked in different directions trying to resist, but it was no use. In the middle of G-Bar on a packed Saturday night, I began to cry.
I hate showing emotion. I prefer that people simply assume that I am completely stoic. I laugh off most painful encounters or use sarcasm to mask underlying feelings. I have mastered the art of seeming completely cold…almost.
The unfortunate side effect to consistently repressing feelings is that the soul has limited capacity. Like overpacking a suitcase, if you continuously fold up emotions and squish them down, sooner or later, you have packed in one too many things and the top blows.
When Stephen told me about his job offer in Boston, I was ecstatic. Boston is one of my favorite cities. Great shopping, picturesque scenery and you can’t fling a jaunty scarf over your shoulder without hitting an ivy league grad. With the exception of below-freezing winters, what’s not to love?
I met Stephen four years ago when he began dating my old roommate. He was out of work and didn’t seem too concerned with finding a new job. I was recently out of a relationship and living off my settlement. I assumed he was a gold-digger and I think he assumed the same about me. Nevertheless, we shared an affinity for alcohol and a significant lack of responsibilities, so we made a good pair for the summer. After Stephen and my roommate broke up, I assumed he would drift out of my life completely. No big loss.
But Stephen stayed in my life, ultimately becoming one of my closest friends. I have seen the irresponsible little boy who sought security in an endless string of relationships grow into a mature, self-sufficient man with an bright career in front of him. The kid I once knew could have never gone off to a new city unsupported, but four years later, the grown up is facing the challenge fearlessly. I couldn’t be more proud of him.
Topped off by my seventh beer and third shot of the evening, that combination of pride and loss finally got the best of me. I don’t what triggered my emotions, but standing in the middle of the busy bar, talking to my dear friend, it finally hit me that he would soon be gone. No more pre-gaming before going out on the weekends. No more jokes about my increasing waist line or his receding hair line. No more games of Who-Haven’t-You-Slept-With-In-This-Bar. His life was taking a turn for the better, and as a result, mine would take a brutal hit.
Embarrassed, lip still quivering, I pulled myself together and left the bar. I walked through Ybor, red-faced and eyes swollen, feeling silly and sentimental. I tried to imagine Tampa without one of our native gays, ex-husband to dozens and host to countless houseboys. I have walked that same street a hundred times, but that night, the city just didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t sure if it ever would again.