In the late 80s and early 90s I belonged to a local GLBT computer BBS called GLIB. One Saturday in 1990, I think, the group had planned a day trip by train to Atlantic City. On Friday night, I logged into the BBS and entered the chat room, and there was a new guy there I hadn’t talked to before–I’ll call him JJ. We started chatting, really hit it off, and talked through the night. There was that sense of this being someone I’d known all my life. The next morning, as I was needing to leave in order to get to the train station on time, I talked him into deciding–on the spur of the moment–to come on the outing too.
We met at the train station, then, for the first time, after having known each other online at most twelve hours. At that point, there was an immediate physical attraction as well, at least speaking for myself. We spent the entire trip from DC to NJ talking and continuing to get to know each other, the entire day in Atlantic City sitting on the boardwalk and talking, and the entire train ride back–no, not talking–making out. It was an intense experience, especially to have taken place almost entirely within a 24-hour period.
We started dating then, and were together, off and on, for about a year, I think, and then mostly off for a few months after that. It was a passionate, stormy relationship. While I’d had lovers before, and had come to love others, this was the first time in my life I believe I’d been in love, the first time I’d really felt passion, not just camraderie and compassion.
JJ was 19, and in college; I was 28. Admittedly, a nine-year age difference now wouldn’t phase me, but there was a level at which I was very concerned then, and the age difference–particularly our different points in life, and in being out–certainly played a role in both the ongoing storminess and the eventual dissolution. (And it’s interesting to realize that now he’s roughly the age I was when I met him then.)
During the next year or two, JJ and I kept somewhat in touch; because of the BBS connections, we still ran in vaguely the same circles. But then he graduated college, and moved to Charlottesville to attend graduate school; I would get reports about him from mutual friends for a while, but then one day he largely vanished. He dropped out of graduate school, and I had no idea what had become of him.
Fast forward ten years to December 2002. One Saturday afternoon, out of the blue, I received an email from JJ. It wasn’t a long one, but it began by noting that it was a grey Saturday where he is, and in a mood of “wistfulness” he looked me up on the Internet and found my site and decided to contact me. After leaving UVa, he had eventually made his way to Michigan, where he–surprisingly–entered medical school. Currently he’s a resident in Montreal, but will be moving to Houston in June for a fellowship. He even said en passant that he had kept abreast of my life, to a degree, back when I was working for the Association of American Medical Colleges, and he was applying for and enrolled in medical school.
I wrote back that same day, telling him how nice it was to hear from him after all that time, and looking forward to re-establishing electronic communication.
Nada. Zip. No response.
Last night, four months after that first email, I heard from him again: a three-line email greeting me, then telling me that unexpectedly he’s going to be in the area this weekend, and asking if I’ll be around.
Roger’s response: “Yeah, right.”
Lee’s response: “No, no, no.”
Colleague T’s response: “Yes, yes, yes.”
I’m disappointed that JJ is taking this kind of approach to re-connecting–almost reminds me of some of the passive-aggressive stuff we used to use with each other all those years ago. But I am curious about his life and–after all this time–still care about him (that should not, however, be read as “still carrying a torch for him”). So I responded that I will be around, and asked him to let me know when he’s free. We’ll see if he actually follows up, and I’ll probably have a long angst-ridden entry before weekend’s end.