I met Phil in the AOL chat room.
We’re going back to a time when there was no high speed dial-up and AOL was a big player in the internet realm. The young people of today don’t know about the modem and the screeching sound it made as it connected you to the internet. I also think that’s why the older generation is so patient because with a modem, pages didn’t load right away. You had to wait and wait and wait. Sometimes depending on how old your computer was you could go to a page and while it was loading go get a drink of water from the kitchen, make a sandwich and see what was good on television.
There is some exaggeration but it’s what it felt like sometimes. The internet also opened doors for those who were gay and didn’t have means of meeting others. It was a fun place, a dangerous place, a place where you can find love, a place where you can find trouble if that’s what you ‘re looking for. It was called the AOL chat room.Whatever you were looking for was waiting for you in that chat room.
I won’t lie, before I got into a relationship you could go in the room and meet men or whoever you were into and for me it opened the doors to instant sex.Sex with strangers. It sometimes felt like ordering food. You could either have it delivered, where they come to you or do take-out where you go to them.and sometimes the only thing you knew about them was their screen name and whatever made-up name they gave you before you got it on. When’s the last time you asked your deliveryman what his last name was?
That’s how I met Phil.
The great thing about the chat room is that you could meet people from all over the world and Phil was from the south. Having him far away was great in the beginning as we got to learn about each other through chat-eventually we started talking on the phone. His southern drawl pulled me in. it was so different than the other contact as I was getting to know this person and it wasn’t about sex. We really hit it off in the conversations.And I knew his last name!
It was months that we talked and he eventually he came up to visit. He could only stay for a weekend but anytime was good as through our online and phone chats I felt a bond with someone I had never met face to face. I saw pictures but it’s seeing the real person that made a difference. And he was like his picture and again we had a great time not built on sex but a continuation of the conversations we had.
But I knew we were going to hit that point where if we wanted to be serious one of us had to make that commitment to move. I’ve always felt that way about long distance relationships, eventually one will have to give their home up. I was younger and more free spirit and he seemed more established so I decided to make the move. So in a week I gave notice at my job. Whatever didn’t fit into my car I gave away.Said my goodbyes and made my way on the highway to Houston and a new life.
I moved to Houston in March so I was naive about the weather and the heat. I learned real quick at the end of April what southern heat feels like. It’s no joke. You do everything you want before eleven in the morning and after that you were in hell. You would spend the whole summer inside. But I was there with someone I loved..or at least I thought.
There’s a big difference between talking to someone on the internet versus moving in with that person, especially when it’s their home. Although he told me to make it my home inside I felt like it was still his and I felt like I had to ask permission to do things in the home. Then there was Phil himself. The giddy feeling knowing I was going to talk to him on the phone or internet was gone as we now saw each other everyday. And it didn’t help that I started to miss my friends back home as i knew no one in the whole city.
Along with the homesickness, I started to realize, this man would make a great friend but not a lover. I was hypnotized by the online conversations.
It wasn’t that he was a bad person but we just didn’t have that oooomph. To make it worse he had friends who it seemed I also had to get approval from and some were cool with me but I didn’t realize his ex was in his life and that was another thing to deal with as I could tell he couldn’t stand me and the feeling was mutual.
It wasn’t until one day I woke up and looked around and it was like I came out of a coma. I looked at the bed which felt strange and then over at Phil who was still sleeping and in my head I told myself, “What the fuck am I doing in Houston and who is this?” We both agreed it wasn’t what we expected and I was more angry at myself for giving up my life and packing everything that fit into my car and driving back to Minnesota as he continued on with the only disruption is that I was no longer there.
But I had no one to blame as I made a major life decisions on the wanting to be in a relationship. I laugh even today when people complain that they want to be in a relationship, but when they’re in one the fantasy of it is not what they expect. It takes work, communication, work, sharing, work, negotiating and more work.
But every relationship just gets you ready for the next and eventually you’ll meet that one. For some the internet still serves that purpose and its not all bad but the one thing technology can’t replace is the natural chemistry between two people. It’s irreplaceable.
Phil taught me that.
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