& Chris Johnston
all about the bridge, finding it, getting across it. I remember
reading something like that once when I was in college. My mom
instilled a fear of bridges in me when I was a child when she
read me "The Three Billy-Goats Gruff, " a story that kept me from
playing under the bridges in the Boston Commons.
I am on a beautiful bridge (no trolls beneath, guaranteed) in Central
Park. This picture was taken at the end of 2003, after I had flown
off to visit New York City on about 4 hours notice. During a period
of great stress it was the best move I could have made. But with
the new year came new challenges, new bridges to cross.
writing my last article for BENT I found myself
talking to a friend online. Chris expressed concern about what had
been going on in my life. He also confessed that he wanted a change,
that our friendship, as an Internet friendship only, had gone on
long enough. I had been chatting regularly with Chris for some time,
as I do with many of my Internet friends. Those of us in the same
situation, alone and disabled, find that being able to turn on the
computer twenty-four hours a day to connect with friends makes almost
everything easier to bear.
Chris, though it was different. I had always felt an unusual kind
of connection with him. It's true that we share the same kind of
educational background, we both face the world alone, we've both
built our friends into family, but it was more, even, than that.
Although we are gay, I never though anything more than an Internet
friendship was possible. I mean, pleasehe is my junior by
many years, he's totally adorable, and he had never brought up any
of the big disability questions that are so important in my life.
simply talked. We talked about everything: life, work, fears, loneliness,
all the mundane things, too, like shopping and commuting. Then,
during one chat, he slippedto
my advantage. When I mentioned three guys I had chatted with on
the Net that I really wanted to meet in person, he asked why he
was not one of them. My answer was straightforward and honest. I
told him that I was looking for more than a friendship. I wanted
a relationship, the kind that you take to the grave.
though I had been in a serious relationship, "long term," as we
say, one that ended badly (OK, spectacularly
badly), I had not given up hope. I was tired of going it alone,
I told him. I wanted more in my life. I have a lot to offer, after
all. I am a good guy, I work hard, I have been faced with some heavy
obstacles, but I have grown from them. I was feeling it was time
to commit. What I wanted most was to get past the fear, take the
chance, the plunge, step up.
Chris stepped up. Boy did he ever. This wonderful friend, it turned
out, had kept his feelings from me till I was ready to hear them.
Like me, he was afraid that revealing his feelings might risk our
friendship. When we finally decided to talk, he had me at "hello."
Even across the phone line, I could tell he was smiling. Smiling
at me. A real talk, a real voice, was what I needed to hear. Blame
my disability, blame the stroke, but it's difficult for me to convey
my mood in an e-mail, especially if it's a good mood: it's hard
to write happy.
on a typical day, we talk at 6:30pm, at midnight, and again at 4:30am
when I wake to a ringing phone (thanks to MCI, I don't have to freak
out about my phone bill). We continue our e-mails, too, which have
turned into the most incredible love letters, purely non-sexual
in tone, but my best female friends melt when they have the opportunity
to read themor parts of them, at least. Chris
has even spoken to my loyal friends Virginia and Jeremy (Jeremy,
after what we've been through together, has been his over-protective
self, but he has earned it, and Chris understands).
surmounting the latest crises in my life, including more health
woes and the possible loss of my home,
it's hard to believe I have found a guy who wants to go forward
with me, who will stand beside my wheels and deal with anything
that comes our way.
and I have completed all the necessary immigration papers in the
United States and are waiting for a response from the bureaucrats
on the other side. And by the way, for those of us who, because
of disability, have dealt with that nightmare called the Social
Security Administration, nothing compares to what used to be called
INS and is now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Want to know if you can trust someone? Ask them to submit to scrutiny
by our government.
I am Chris, a fair-skinned Indian from New Delhi. My search for
someone special has made me go through a lot. I've known I was gay
since I was an eight-year-old in love with his loving cousin a few
years older. That love seemed natural then. It still does. But what
about all of the traditional Indian family values I was raised with?
Could I believe in them and still be true to myself?
I was different and believing I was fully human often became a struggle.
I carried on with hope even after my breakup with a boyfriend who
believed he could juggle his love for me and his commitment to his
newly married wife. God for me did not exist and destiny was a term
for the weak. I was more than ever determined to find love.
then one fine day I saw a simple one-liner in my mail from a guy
who mentioned reasons why I should not like him (his wheelchair,
his age). Under this veil was the beautiful heart of a man who had
loved and been betrayed and even so had never lost the hope of finding
love. How did I feel when I received this mail? I felt good about
compliments coming from a sensitive writer (just the way I am).
Anything more was moonshine.
not because he was in wheelchair. That, in fact, never troubled
my mind. What did was the fact that he was a typical American who
loads a guy with praise but never expects to meet him. Just Net
chitter-chatter. It never interested me. Somehow his wheelchair
was not a cause for alarm or pity. It is just one of the things
he is living with. In fact it made me jealous of his courage, his
will to love someone and take care of them. It melted my brain more
than my heart, it brought tears to my eyes not for him but for my
own inability to stand and say, "Hey I am here for you, I will take
care of you. If you want to be my boyfriend, my partner for life
I will stand by you. I was rocked.
looked for excuses to tell myself that despite what he wrote he
could not be a serious or committed person enough to be the love
of my life. I was proved wrong so many times. Even now as I write
the thought of his ability to love selflessly shivers
my backbone. I love him not
because he is so good, but because I cannot think of anyone else
I can be in love with, no one who can say those words that make
me feel restless all night.
I will be with my love. I am looking forward to doing all I could
not do when I was far away from him. I still wonder so many times,
if it wasn't him could it be anyone else? And every time I think
of it I go blank. Maybe there is no answer. It is him. He has always
been waiting for me as I have always been searching for him.
©2004 T.J. Boothroyd
and Chris Johnston
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