I’m the guy

I’m the guy who sits among the conversants, listening. I’m the guy who, occasionally throws out a remark or two, but resumes being quiet. When I’m one on one, I can be chatty. But I listen before I speak. Maybe it’s the therapist in me. I tend to listen carefully and respond on a level more deeply than the other is often willing to go.

I’m the guy who might ask a question that can spark an argument, and then lean back and refrain from engaging in a heated debate. I’m the guy who will make a joke or provide an insight, and then will let the remark stand without further embellishment.  I’m the guy that people often forget about in lively group discussions.  I’m the guy who, if he does speak up, it’s only because there is a lull in the conversation.  I’m the guy who, if he does try to jump into a conversation, is usually drowned out by someone louder.

I’m the guy who hasn’t been drinking.

I’m the guy that can tell a story apropos of the subject being discussed and then have the topic veer off onto another subject without comment on the story.

I’m the guy in the group photograph who seems to be aloof and distant from the main body.

At one point in my life, this aspect of my character was a source of sadness and anxiety for me. I felt I was different and didn’t know why. Embracing my homosexuality gave me a name to my difference. Alcohol fueled the misery I had inside so that I didn’t feel the pang of being different and “less than.” Now, in my late sixties, I accept that I’m the guy that I am. In a crowd of drinking men, my high school alumni, my role is that of the hanger-on, the listener-on-the-edge, These guys are all professionals, married, full of stories, families and adventures that are similar to one another and unlike the journeys I’ve taken as a single, gay, alcoholic man. They were buddies in school, they played football and basketball together. I didn’t. I hid out, read books, played the organ and drove into town. They were boys among boys. Now they are men among men. Me? I’m the guy, sitting on the edge of the conversation, listening, sipping my water, and waiting for the lull to tell a joke, a story or to spark a debate.

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