There are a few points in each person’s life where a chance decision changes the course of their future history, shifting everything to come onto a new path. We rarely see these in advance. They often only become clear in retrospect.
I’ve had a few of these in my own life. The first these was my decision (with my mother’s blessing) to leave her home in Tucson to live with my father for a year in Rancho Cucamonga, California. I was sixteen at the time, and this one decision altered everything that was to come after, setting me on a course to reclaim my California native-hood (I was born in Costa Mesa) and to become the person and writer I am today.
But there was another choice, a little later in life, that seemed so small and insignificant at the time. But looking back, it was the moment that truly changed everything.
That move to California? It led me to an English class in my Junior year with a fantastic teacher, Jeanne Brondino – a friend of mine to this day. Essays we wrote in that class ended up in a book called Raising Each Other (she knew a guy), which eventually led to a job offer from that publisher.
And that job resulted, a couple years later, in a move to the San Francisco Bay Area, at about the time that I finally came out as an openly gay man.
Which brings me to that particular moment in time, and a tiny yet massively significant choice.
I dated a few guys after I came out and started living in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco. One of these was an older guy (early forties – practically ancient, right? LOL) named Jay. Well, maybe “dating” is a little too generous? Let’s say “hooked up.” My mother reads these, after all. *waves*
Anyhow, one night, Jay mentioned something called “Monday Night Rap Groups” at a place called the Pacific Center, an LGBTQ community center in Berkeley. I’d never been to one of those, so I filed it away in the back of my head.
When things went south with Robert, the other guy I was seeing, the one I was convinced was the love of my life (baby gays often fall hard the first time), I remembered this place Jay had mentioned, and the gay discussion groups they held there.
So one Monday night just about thirty years ago in April, I hopped into my little white Ford Escort Pony and drove through the tunnel from Alameda to the mainland, and over to Pacific Center.
That’s where I met the real love of my life.
At those “rap” nights, 50-100 guys would gather out on the back patio while the night’s topics were announced. I chose one called “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” – because Robert and I had just split up. I trooped upstairs to a small office where maybe eight guys were led by a moderator through this discussion. At the end of the hour, the moderator told us that guys would often head across the street to the Bison Brewery to get drinks and chat.
Heading down the stairs, I looked over my shoulder and saw one of the guys from my session. He was handsome and friendly looking, and I thought, what the hell? I asked him if he wanted to get a drink with me.
We sipped sodas at the Bison, and talked about life and love and reading – he liked to read books! – and had a great time together. And at the end of the night, he took me up to the Oakland Foothills, where we backed into the burned out husk of a garage (this was a few months after the big fire) and kissed me while we looked out at the bay and the stars.
At least until a cop came by, flashed his lights at us, and told us to move along.
We made another date, and within two weeks we had decided to move in together in his condo.
That one small decision to go to Pacific Center, made on a whim on a night when I had nothing else to do, brought me Mark, and I wouldn’t trade away the life we’ve lived together for the last thirty years.
Happy Almost Anniversary, mio Marco. I’m looking forward to thirty more.
To my reader and writer friends, what decision changed your life?