A Peconic Relationship

Written By: V.  Hansmann

We sat in the back of a self-help group for gay men trying to make sense of their bad habits. That’s how we met. He used to be a priest and I spent thirteen years married to Nancy. We hit it off the way two taciturn people sometimes do. There has always been an ease between us, though sometimes he is pretty hard to read. I accept this as a lack of vocabulary rather than willful withholding. Not that I’m an open book.

I’ve known him for a dozen years. We talk every day. It’s complicated. I can’t tell him I love him, because I don’t. If I could put my feelings into words, I wouldn’t. He’s my best friend: it’s that simple. That’s how I love him. Explaining my side of our mellow relationship would be oversharing in the worst way. I mean, I get it. Brad gets it. What’s to discuss?

He’s as tall as I am not and we each carry at least twenty-five extra pounds. He has strange and beautiful child-size ears and a laugh that, when it pops, is enormously gratifying. We’re six years apart in age. I’m sixty-four. He’s a youth. Brad and I are both fussy, private, hyper-self-reliant culture mavens. I can count on one finger the number of my friends who enjoy New York City’s classical music and art.

Three years ago, Brad drove me out to the North Fork of Long Island to show me a house he had been having fantasies about. “It’s a corner lot,” he said, underselling the place hard. The miserable little ranch house was a tragedy; asbestos shingles scarred by pustules of that sick-looking yellow foam used to plug God knows what kind of holes. It wore a skirt of tall, dead weeds. We didn’t even get out of the car. “You can do better than that,” was about as encouraging as I could be.

The next bright idea was to find some lunch. Maybe in Greenport itself, on the other side of Sound Avenue, some fish-and-chips and we could see what else the village had in the way of real estate. Brad and I were both feeling the need to put some distance between ourselves and the city. It was time. We speculated about a mutual ‘project.’ What if we pooled our resources? Together we might find a place, something we couldn’t afford separately. Not too much house: not too much yard. A front porch with rockers and a fireplace with andirons. And an upstairs.

There was bound to be some decent housing stock in that sleepy little town on the Peconic Bay. Greenport was the end of the line for the jitney and the train. It was where you caught the ferry to Shelter Island. It had a movie theater and a clam shack. And a library called Floyd. The Hamptons may have the silken Atlantic beaches, but at a terrible price in congestion and attitude. Greenport seemed to hold a lot of promise. “Just think what the gays could do with it,” said Brad. “You keep your mouth shut,” I said, “Don’t jinx this.”

So, we started looking in a distracted kind of way, enthusiastic and reluctant by turns. Two opportunities slipped through our fingers. A good thing, too, as they implied a lot more ‘project’ than either of us could possibly manage. During one of the lulls in the search, we got a call from our extremely patient real estate agent. “I’ve got something for you to look at on First Street.”

Six months ago we purchased a white, two-story, nineteenth century house with rocking chairs on the front porch and a red barn / workshop in the backyard. No fireplace though, a detail that nearly sank the deal. Now we are tenants-in-common, a fiduciary relationship. Housemates. We are enmeshed in paint chips, daybeds, and tomato plants.

But in the meantime Brad has his first boyfriend ever. I’m acting like it doesn’t matter. I hydroplane over the whole thing. I fret. First, I was jealous of Gordon, the boyfriend. Then, I was jealous of Brad. I feel sorry for myself in waves. I seem to want something I don’t want. I’ve got resentments based on air. I can’t talk to Brad about the situation because I’m afraid I won’t express myself accurately or honestly and would risk jeopardizing all things. I will have to reconcile my wayward feelings.

No boyfriends for me. I have a new house.