It's hard to imagine more than 40 years later how I ever put up with him, for he was the most uptight person about being gay I've ever known. If I looked at him in anything other than the most neutral way possible, say, in a restaurant, he would hiss at me: "Don't look at me that way; people will be able to tell!" He may have been four years older and vastly more intelligent than I, but I was certainly in far better possession of myself about gay stuff than he was. I'm sure, in retrospect, that I was more secure in all regards, actually.
It was, after all, 1953, and it's objectively true that in a backwater town like Urbana-Champaign, Illinois one did not expect great tolerance from the locals. But there were plenty of gay people around and they weren't nearly so closety as Alan was.
But that's the way love sometimes is: makes you willing to overlook even real shortcomings as long as you're getting what you think you want. One of the features that seems to have permeated the whole life is connected with this: I've never demanded or even expected to have everything in my relationships. As with Alan, I figured something was better -- a lot better -- than nothing. Perhaps it was a mistake not to be more exacting, but somehow that doesn't feel right to me. I guess I see life as the art of the possible.
And he certainly did have virtues. He was what I saw at the time as very good-looking, and he was incredibly smart, something I held in great awe about him. And there was the sexual allure, for I thought he was a doll and was myself not so bad-looking. We were both certainly highly charged with sex energies.
Very quickly after we met, his intellectual prowess began to change my values: my horizons expanded dramatically where history, culture, and politics were concerned. I had been for more than two years a music monomaniac, but Alan rather depreciated that aspect as mere artistry (he who could not even whistle in tune, I now recall). It wasn't intellectual enough for him. I suppose, looking back, that his primary appreciation of art was on the intellectual, rational level, whereas mine was inspirational and spiritual, grounded in actually being able to make art.
We lived at first in a pair of separate rooms in a rooming house on So. Third Street in Champaign. He would come creeping over to my room in great secrecy in the dead of night, and we would screw our brains out. Then he would creep back at dawn. It was all so crazy. Alan was the first person I had enjoyable anal sex with. I discovered almost at once that the receiving partner was the controlling figure in such matters, that what is now called the bottom was in fact the top.
In 1954 he was drafted into the Army. After basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, he was sent to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma to do math for the artillery people. At least they recognized that he was a mathematician. But psychologically, it was very hard for him, a totally alienating atmosphere. Given how nervous he was about anything connected with homosexuality, it actually surprised me that he finally decided to get out of the Army by telling them he was gay.
He was from Chicago, and sometime in 1954 or early 1955 -- on his leave after basic training, it probably was -- we were there together, where he took me to my first real gay bar, which I thought was terribly uptight and spooky, and also to Pizzeria Uno (not yet a chain) for my first pizza. Pizza was not yet the craze it was later to become.
During the year he was in the Army I sort of came into my own, realizing that I had a fair number of virtues and allures that in no way depended on him and that in fact he had been rather tyrannical with me. As a result, upon his return from the Army, it was not going to be business as usual, if I had any say in the matter, as in fact I did: while he was away, he had realized that I was one of the few persons who really cared about him, and he was a good deal softer in tone about everything after his return -- at least for a while.
We took an apartment on Harvey St. in Urbana, a real dump completely infested with cockroaches, which revolted me. But we didn't have much money, either, so it had to do. We hadn't been there more than a few months, though, when things began to sour between us. He was once again getting uptight and authoritarian, and I certainly wasn't about to put up with that again. So I precipitously moved out, into a house with a couple guys I knew through music circles.
Alan went ballistic. He would call up and threaten to kill me (and he did own a gun). During the spring and summer, these calls began to sound a bit more realistic to me, and I started to think he might actually try to harm me. Finally I confided in my boss -- I was already working in the physics research project that would bring me to Wisconsin a short time later -- and he suggested I get out of town for a while. I had a vacation scheduled anyway, and Jim even offered to advance me money so I could get away.
I think I saw Alan only once after that -- he was decidedly hostile. I moved to Madison a couple days later. I've heard only one report of him since, a chance encounter with a mutual friend on the streets of San Francisco. My friend said Alan behaved extremely strangely and scurried away as quickly as he could.
For all that I thought he was nuts, he left me with some very good influences, especially where my intellectual life was concerned. I suppose I might have turned out to be a far less serious person, had I not been exposed to the very high level of his mental gifts. I am certainly not at all sorry for that.