Last week I had dinner with my freshman roommate. Let me clarify something up front. He wasn't actually my roommate. He lived down the hall and across the way. How we met, I don't recall and how we became such close friends is now a mystery.
I do remember clearly, however, the first time I saw him and the physical impact he had on me; the quickened breath, the weak knees, the touch of vertigo, the impossible feeling that I was standing in the presence of someone holy or perhaps divine.
Albert was his name and he was tall, lean, and well-muscled for an eighteen year old boy. His hair was dark, short, and his eyes were dark, deep. His face was calm, sincere, and his smile was simply radiant.
Upon seeing me, he eagerly reached out, took my hand and shook it firmly. That handshake broke my trance, but it cemented an infatuation that remained with me for years.
Immediately upon meeting, Albert and I became inseparable. For me, I was mesmerized by his looks, his mind and his kindness. The feeling of what I believed to be first-love sometimes overwhelmed me, but I new these desires were wrong and could, if left unchecked, be the key to destroying this relationship around which I had begun building dreams and fantasies.
And so I kept the desires in check, tightly bound, buried deeply in a place I dared rarely visit and then only for brief excursions and quick returns.
As is the custom at BYU, Albert and I eventually left the university for our missions and never returned to the place of our departure.
After completing my service obligation, I quickly married and became enveloped in the demands of family, school, church and job. Albert, although not part of my active life, remained a secret pleasure still hidden deeply and bound tightly, loosed only occasionally in my mind for brief but cherished visits.
Years passed and my work took my family and me to Chicago. While my career soared, the challenge of living and working around openly gay people was sometimes unbearable. Because of my commitment to my wife and children, coming out and starting a new life I thought to be impossible. To salve my frustration and loneliness, I would sometimes think of Albert and wonder where his life had taken him and wishing, perhaps, that our paths would once again intersect.
One evening as I was finishing my work and preparing to make the cross-Loop trek to the train, my telephone rang. I quickly recognized the familiar voice and reacted much the same way I had on our first meeting so many years before.
Albert was coming to Chicago on business, had learned from a friend that my wife and I lived in a nearby suburb, and was hoping to come by our home for a visit.
A week later he was sitting at our table, enjoying our company, and sharing stories about travels, work and his evolving philosophy of life. Albert had become the publisher and editor of a scholarly journal devoted to the Mormon experience. He had not married and planned not to. He acknowledged his position as a lapsed Mormon and admitted many unresolved questions about the Church, its history and its doctrine. We talked late into the evening about these questions, basking in the warmth of our discussion and, surprisingly, our physical proximity.
Albert had become a beautiful man. His body was lean and powerful, his features bright and perfectly formed, his intellect sharp and insightful, his personality open and kind.
As I sat near him, listened to him, and felt the added heat of his body on that sultry summer evening, I realized for the first time that he, too, might be carrying a secret similar to my own. The thought frightened me, no terrified me. Despite my overwhelming desire to reach out and touch his hand, his face, his breast, my fear kept my hand in check and my heart frozen in a no-man's land of empty longing.
Late that night or early the next morning, we stood at the door, hugged and bade farewell. Although my heart was broken with his departure, the secret remained intact, no confession or revelation on either side to mar the peace of the evening. Truth was left for another day.