I've had writer's block - not for journalism, but for the personal stuff I was pouring into these columns. Now I don't. The following explains why.
lazarus 8 - D*I*V*O*R*C*E
Itís taken me 18 months to even get myself to the point where I can articulate what I feel. Before that, experiencing my emotions clearly enough to write them out was like grasping white-hot metal.
In June 2003 after nine and a half years together Ė most of my 40s, during which I nearly died, came back to life and reinvented myself Ė LoveRat and I split up. Divorced.
We only lived together for the last six months (that was the last straw!) and we never shared bank accounts, mortgages or even so much as one stick of furniture. But I loved him and he loved me, and love dies hard.
Iím not going to go endlessly into what went wrong between us. That would be unfair to LoveRat, who has only libelled me mildly, and not by name, on his website.
I donít call him LoveRat because he cheated on me. Oh, he had a couple of mini-affairs in our nine years together. And me? I tend to combine being almost soppily attached to my main man emotionally with being an incontinent sex piggy Ė not a combination all men appreciate, but one at least possible in the gay world.
No, I call him LoveRat because heís small, quick, dark and has nasty sharp teeth. Anger was the forbidden emotion in our family, and I realised recently that Iíve always fallien in love with angry young men, because they make me feel like a real person. Any reaction is better than the non-reaction, the liberal woofiness, that tended to be my parentsí way of dealing with their offspringsí dilemmas.
Well, I finally decided to grow up and do without the masochistic thrill of a partner whose way of dealing with the challenges of life was to blast the people he loved most with annihilating scorn.
On my part? Well, LoveRat wanted someone a lot more domestic and practical than me. Though I am far more settled and peaceable than I used to be, Iím still at heart a Soho queen, and didnít really buy into his vision of bliss in a country cottage somewhere.
And he wanted a career advisor. Soon after we entered into it I hit my greatest life crisis. I became a terminally-ill AIDS bunny on the dole. He (and Iíll always be grateful to him) pulled down 50K in a computer job and then came home and cooked and worried about me.
Then I didnít die, and instead got a job that involved me salvaging a magazine by working 11-hour days.
Meanwhile LoveRat, who had been getting increasingly stressed-out trying to be a manager, took time off work, assuming heíd get back in when he wanted to. Then the dot.com bubble burst, the bottom fell out of the IT market, and heís never held a steady job to this day. There was a complete reversal of fortune.
If heíd been the kind of person to be a househusband Ė and in many ways he has more skill in this direction than me - we might have complemented each other. But heís too clever to be happy with mediocrity, he fell into a savage depression, and nothing I could suggest seemed to help. It was worse because Iím a trained psychotherapist. Never analyse your loved ones, I was told, itís impossible, and so I found it to be. Every effort to understand was countered by a blast of anger and ďWhat use is that to me?Ē
In the end, he was the one who made the push. Iím better at denial than he, and would have trudged on through an increasingly barren landscape; but weíd become co-dependent, trying to extract from each other what we should have been trying to find in ourselves. Iíve certainly been more self-sufficient and successful career-wise since we split.
But oh God, I miss him, those nights when all I want is a companion to hug. I miss his beauty. LoveRat is Chinese/black/Irish, a beautiful mongrel, and has cornered all the good genes in his family. And I loved so to watch him on the dance floor, when heíd lose himself utterly in the music, twisting his supple body to the beat. Such grace.
Iíd thought the days of loss and abandonment were finally over for me. Iíd lost a previous lover to AIDS and a generation of friends, both to AIDS and then to the attrition of friends that tends to happen when youíre ensconsed in what in some ways was an overly close relationship. But it didnít matter; everything was sorted out now. Iíd met my lifetime partner at last and could cruise downhill gracefully into old age. I could die in his arms, as Paul died in mine.
Well, I found that losing a partner to divorce is actually worse than losing one to death. A dead partner is gone. A divorced one is there Ė often on the phone or arguing with me in fractious emails, or in my mind, torturing me during lonely nights with longings for reconciliation and forgiveness. Yes, readers, I did beg for him back. More than once.
In the end, Iíve decided, and so has he, the Ďletís be good friendsí thing doesnít seem to work. There is too much blame and pain there for us to segue straight into being comfortable exes. I think weíll have to stay incommunicado for a year at least. We canít speak as friends, if we ever do, until we stop quarrelling as ex-lovers.
And finally, oh God, the sense of failure, which I know he shares too.
This is probably the biggest thing, and is Iím sure the one any divorcee can share. Just because Iím gay doesnít mean I donít long for a soulmate, and think thereís something radically wrong with me if I canít hold on to one.
The barbs Iíve flung at myself (on occasion aided by LoveRat) since we split. Loser. Sex addict. Inadequate. Ugly old fart. Youíll die alone, and deserve it. It goes on.
I have had to forcibly remind myself that nine years of companionship, punctuated, for sure, by rows, but also including some of the happiest times of my life, are more than many people, straight or gay, achieve.
I think, finally, Iím turning the corner. I find my sexuality connecting with my emotions again Ė sure, Iíve had sex since we split (try and stop me) but it was cold, avoidant, damaged. Equally, Iíve on several occasions gone mooning romantically after pretty men who werenít interested in me. But the other night I was in The Hoist leather bar, assisted by no more than a couple of lagers and a tiny lump of dope, and found myself falling in both love and lust with every eligible man I saw. How beautiful they all were! I knew there was another one out there for me.
Another hard thing is that I started seeing LoveRat in my Late Youth Ė OK, 37, but I could still just about get away with convincing myself (if no one else) that I cut it as a catch on the bar scene.
Divorced, I found myself nearly a decade later on the barren shores of daddyhood and for a while had no idea to cope. But now I find there are some guys who like greying temples, crowsí feet, and mature cynicism. I never did, but Iím glad theyíre around. Iíve started looking at myself in the mirror and failing to wince recently. Not bad for nearly 50, you horny old dog, I think, and laugh.
But itís still been fucking painful; and so, for what is, I promise, the only time on this website, I give you a poem.
You were the only man
With the cage of whose embrace
I ever fell asleep.
There was a silent place
Beyond the boundaries of my maps
Where I could hold my tongue.
You tamed the man whoíd run
From his own devils, from the traps
That kept him in one place.
I grew to love your face,
Your dance-nirvana ecstasy,
Your wary boyish grin.
They came to fit the hole.
No, not that one; a hole
As deep as death, as dark
And bellowing as the worldís end; the same
Thatís gouging out my soul tonight.
My nerves are cauterised,
Torn at the tips, my senses end in you.
Iím deaf, Iím blind, Iím numb.
I wish youíd come
And tame me once again.