2:21 p.m. - January 06, 2004
Back in 1997 after I returned to California and was a student at UC Berkeley (M.A. degree), I met a Hawaiian guy named Keoni and I would say we were good acquaintances – we didn’t hang out together outside of work or school, but ate in the cafeteria together, shared jokes and stories, hung out – and I recall thinking He’s gay not because he was flamboyant or had that voice, but just because I knew. He was bound for the premier cooking school in Northern California and would ply me with fancy little cakes and pastries, talked about his background, growing up in Hawaii.
I was a dick to him. I’d sit across from him and arrange things so that he’d look at my bulge, and I’d catch him over and over. I called him a fag and when he denied it, I’d laugh and brush off his protests, said I could tell and he’d squirm. At Christmas he gave me an elaborate set of art supplies, meaning he remembered I had admired something he had painted, had said I’ve always wanted to learn and he offered to teach me. I was flippant, mentioned he just wanted to get close to me and smell my deodorant. Once, he asked for a favor – I think a ride home – and I said sure, as long as he gave me a blowjob and he blushed, said I had him all wrong and I laughed, made sure he knew I knew. Looking back, I was a bully, and I enjoyed it. A part of me was relieved to have somebody lower on the totem pole, a way to put down that part of me I knew was there. And you know, Keoni wasn’t girly, didn’t have particular mannerisms at all, and still I knew. I would scratch to see if his gaze followed my hand and it amused me, perhaps like walking a tightrope – exhilarating, fearful of being discovered myself – and getting away with it. I, too, checked him out and maybe he knew about me. In 1997 I was good looking and knew it, was straight except for the things I looked at online, and derived pleasure in teasing, taunting him.
Sometime during the spring a woman I respected came up to me and asked if we could talk in private; we sat in the deserted lounge with the sun shining hot through the windows. Prefaced with a sweetie, you know I love you in her mom-I-never-had way that I’ve always enjoyed (we’re still in touch), said she had something difficult to say and would I keep an open mind; she said she knew of a guy who was interested in me romantically and would I/ had I ever considered something like that? I remember freezing, thinking my secret was known, gathering every ounce of straight-man-response, and shooting down the remote possibility. Demanded to know who, what, when, and she refused to tell me and I said Keoni? and she wouldn’t respond. I was terrified, my whole body covered with the my-soapy-hands-can’t-hold-onto-the-glass-and-it-will-fall-and-break feeling. It didn’t matter – I knew who.
I avoided Keoni until the end of school and he slipped me a letter and a poem, and that was the end.
About two years ago I was at a function and saw him across the room and just like a movie, we looked at each other and on my end I blushed, my heart pounded. A little while later he came up to me while I was conversing with somebody else and that fear inside took over, and I didn’t acknowledge him, kept talking until after at least 6 or 7 minutes, he left.
I haven’t seen him since and I wish I knew his last name if just to look him up, apologize.
What I think about now is that Keoni personified my own hate and fear of being gay, and he was a walking target upon which to heap my scorn and distaste. The thing about life is that you never know what will happen tomorrow and you may not have the chance to make amends before it’s too late. I wonder what I’d say to him today.
First thing, I’d say I still have that art set because oddly enough, I treasure it.