It was my fascination for a straight boy named Dean that eventually ended the affair with Don. One day I was at one of the dorm eateries with a pal. We went there once in a while just to check out the boys.
In walks this total divinity of a guy. I was dumbfounded by how good-looking he was. I would be even more dumbfounded a few days later when classes started and this same person walked into my advanced calculus class. For six weeks I placed myself strategically in the room so that I would always have him in view, and when the midterm exam was over, I walked out of the room at the same time as he, casually suggesting that we go to the Union together and have a beer.
So we did, and a wonderful, long and intense friendship resulted. We both flunked out of school that term because we never went to class; all we did was shoot pool and drink beer. He was on the varsity gymnastics team and going to school on a scholarship, both of which projects were soon scotched by the academic failure. He also got tossed out of the dorms, but I was more than happy to put him up at my place. That was the last straw for Don, however.
Dean's parents soon came to Madison to fetch him, but I was hoping we could find him a job connected with computing, a field that fascinated him. His only real problem was a lack of a clear sense of what he wanted from life, not too unusual for a person only 19 years old. His dad seemed to like me, thanking me profusely for looking out for his boy. To be sure, I was doing that.
We were sleeping together, though because he really was straight, the sexual escapades were few, furtive and confined to roaming hands under the covers while feigning sleep. I suppose he knew what was going on well enough, but things just worked better if we weren't explicit about it. I was quite comfortable with this pattern, familiar to me from earlier contexts.
We could not find a job for him in the month his parents allowed for the purpose. Shortly afterward, he joined the Navy and soon became a helicopter pilot on an icebreaker. On his first leave home after flight training, we stayed at a resort in Lake Delton owned by his grandparents. His parents, who were also there, just assumed we would sleep together in the spare room's double bed, so we did. Once again it was just minor fooling around under the covers. He wasn't at all interested in same-sex stuff, I'm sure.
Dean settled in San Diego when the nine years of his Navy enlistments were up. There was a marriage that foundered. We saw each other briefly in Los Angeles 1970 and visited again in 1979, in San Diego, where I was attending a computer conference. At the time of the latter visit, he was living with a dancer, apparently quite happy with her. He was as friendly -- and as stunning -- as ever.
In the more successful cases such a friendship, even when no longer particularly active, earns a permanent place in one's heart. At this stage in my life, it's the friendship that really counts, more than the romantic or sexual parts. We saw each other again in the spring of 2001, when I drove to California for opera and a visit to San Diego to see him and another old boyfriend who's living there now. Then 59, Dean was in most respects quite the same, except for having lost the hair on top -- typical pattern baldness -- and what's left is white, but he is still extremely good-looking. And we had a wonderful time, as I was sure we would, talking about the old days, driving in the hills, and visiting the studio of his partner -- they're still together -- who is also a delightful person.
I think I made a difference in his life, back then, and I know he did in mine.