The tears were a surprise, as unexpected as a knock on the front door in the middle of the night, when the soft spotlight illuminated Joe (fabulist) standing on the bare stage with only two water bottles to keep him company. It was his night, his moment, and after watching him prepare for months for this moment, writing and rewriting and making certain that every detailed music and sound cue was just right, it was all I could do but cry.
“Pssst,” he whispered into the microphone, the gentle soundscape he’d created coming forward, but never overpowering the words. It was the beginning of his journey to find a suitable fairy godmother, his search for answers that came in the most unexpected places. My flush of emotion quickly switched to laughter, joining the appreciative audience that packed the Patterson Theatre in Baltimore.
The dense lyricism of his words carried all of us for nearly an hour, forcing the room to giggle and cry at his soul-baring honesty and the magic of his language. He ended the show in an homage to Bob Dylan’s cue card-throwing while the Ramones pounded out their cover of What A Wonderful World. It was a joyous expression, funny and humble, affirmed by the standing ovation that continued through the entire song.
One of the last cards he threw aside was for me. It read, And love for Terry D. who set me free. It was a generous message given all we’ve been through, the uncertainty that runs through the center of our relationship, one that by all standards has been impossible yet through Joe’s tenacity, it continues to work and flourish.
We met through Live Journal while I was still living in Los Angeles, before an abrupt job offer led me to DC. I’m not certain how he found my journal, or if I found his first, but he was one of the two best writers I’d read on here. Vance (drood) and Joe were encouraging, gently prodding me to tell my stories, but more importantly, subtly teaching me how to write them.
When I met Joe in person at his home in Maryland shortly after my move, our two-man Tilt-O-Whirl started, and often we’re riding in the same car, sometimes on the opposite side of the circle. Joe made the mistake of falling in love with me, a man who didn’t want to be loved, not in that way. That didn’t stop him, though.
Joe has been by my side for the past twenty months, watching with me through the vet’s emergency room window as I lost Billy’s and my beloved Bob . He flew to Chicago when he heard my dad was critical. It was an unwanted surprise, and I lashed out at him. That didn’t stop him from standing with me as I watched my dad slip away, and I am so thankful he was there.
He’s witnessed what I’ve kept private, the crippling spasms of losing Billy, knowing that I’ll never be able to love again like I loved my Guyster, and that hasn’t stopped him. He knows I’m about to leave, to go back home to LA, a clock constantly clicking down our time together, and that hasn’t stopped him. He bears the burden of my job frustrations, the tantrums I aim at him that pop like an angry pimple, and that hasn’t stopped him from loving me.
We rarely speak of our future, each of us afraid, each with a unique reason for the fear. The conflicts seem insurmountable sometimes, and with no solutions in sight, we keep silent, enjoying our time together as best we can with that damned clock ticking ticking ticking, and my own unwillingness to surrender.
On Friday night when that soft spotlight came up, and I saw Joe alone on the stage, I cried because I was so proud of him, I cried because I knew this man on stage loved me, I cried for only wanting the best for Joe because he deserves it. I cried because I’m not able to give it to him, not in the way he wants and needs.
In the end, though, I celebrated along with the rest of his audience. After the show, I went to the stage and grabbed the card meant for me, something I will always treasure. When he came from backstage, I kissed his smile and hugged him hard. “I love you, Joe-B,” I said. I meant it.