So okay, let’s say my and Ryan’s friendship is like that: let’s say it’s made of steel underneath, and the other bits have just got to fall away. What about the eros — does that fall away, too?
Even if the answer is “no”, I’ll take it. What’s the alternative? Drop him because the friendship isn’t worth the price? I complained to somebody once, in the earlier days of my gayness, that it seemed like every time I got close to a guy, this sort of thing would rear its head.1 His advice boiled down to, “Maybe stop getting close to guys, then.” That was the last time I asked him for advice.
That’s not the case, by the way: it doesn’t happen that way with everybody. With some guys, it’s all friendship and no eros. Lord, I love those friendships, they’re like spring, they’re like cool water! And then with some, it’s all eros and no friendship. Yech, no thank you. When the eros evaporates like cheap body spray, there’s nothing left but greasy residue.
And then with some guys it’s clearly a friendship, but with some kind of semi-permanent foreign element, a live-in enemy, something I have to guard against and occasionally struggle against. That’s how it was with Sal, but I refused to feed the eros, until it finally got starved and, I’m pretty sure, dropped away completely. Kind of like rubber band ligation for hemorrhoids.
If Ryan were a priest and I were a single woman, or if he were a nun and I were a bachelor, and we were flat out in love with each other, that would be different. It’d be asking for trouble. The most we could hope for would be to maintain a permanent and painful state of suspension. The relationship would have no possible consummation.
When I say consummation, I mean that moment when a thing becomes what it is, when the truth of the thing breaks out, when the bud opens. Where lovers are concerned, the seed is eros and the fruits are many — marriage, children, diapers I guess, who knows what other mysteries. This is why, the first time a husband and wife have sex, we say that they have consummated the marriage: they’ve taken a concrete and irrevocable step into the domain of marriage, and can now begin to flower in earnest.
But what is the consummation of a friendship? I don’t know if there is one. If marriage is an orchid, with a bud that becomes a blossom, maybe friendship is an oak tree, whose purpose is not so much fruit as it is the deepening of roots, the widening of trunks, the recording of every passing year by adding another ring.
Oaks have acorns, of course, and friendship does have its fruits: things like old inside jokes, maybe. But the point is that the orchid and the oak are different organisms, two different kinds of tihngs. The more the orchid becomes itself, the more it tends towards the blossom; the more the oak becomes itself, the deeper its roots go.
An orchid is supposed to be delicate and voluptuous; but if an oak is delicate and voluptuous, then it’s not a very good oak. What’s good in a friendship, in other words, might be bad in a romantic relationship, and vice versa.
Then this is the question: can the relationship of two men ever be an orchid, or is such a relationship always an oak? If two men think their relationship is an orchid, are they just plain wrong, because that’s impossible? When I fell for S., was I an orchid for real? Or was I just an oak with an identity crisis?