I don't remember where I met him. Maybe on the street. Probably in a bar. He was taller than me, blond, slender. I remember his lips: grapefruit red, thick, spread in a skeptical smile.
We ended up back at my apartment. It was summer. Windows open, shades up to let the breeze come through. I pulled off his T-shirt. He tugged at my buttons. Each of us tasted like booze.
It was one of those times when intuition presents itself as fact. The softness in his eyes: a sweet man. The eagerness in his touch: a certain innocence. The ease of intimacy: an uncalloused heart. The set of his shoulders: cultured, a confident intelligence.
We were both in a hurry to get where we were going that evening. We arrived together. We spooned in the night, came to consciousness without regret, decided to get brunch. We were sipping coffee, moving eggs around with our forks, and talking about normal, daylight things: family history, economic circumstance, education, politics.
This was when, apropos of the standard question about past travels, he told me his feelings about Germany.
He was not, himself, German. Maybe his ancestors had been, maybe not. He didn't seem to know. But if he had his choice, he would be German, certainly. Which was fine. Although, there was an odd intensity about the way he conveyed this.
He was heading off to study in Germany. Or maybe it was that he had just come back. Maybe both—had just come back, was about to return because he loved it so. I can't really remember. This was a few years ago. I was in my late 20s. He was in his early 20s.
There were certain things he had already learned about Germany. I remember this because he was quite upset about them. Germany had been treated shabbily in World War II, he lamented. Its citizens pushed around, its Sudetenland stolen. I don't know how he came to believe that this was the main event of World War II, this victimization of Germany, but he was very bothered.
I told him I'm Jewish. It seemed to have no connection in his mind to a discussion of the Second World War. I teased him, gently, saying—without using the word—that he sounded like a 1940s German nationalist. He told me that's precisely what he was.
I thought: I just slept with a Nazi.
A ctually, it was worse than that: I had just slept with a gay Nazi.
It was too absurd to be mad about.
First of all, I was the fool more than he was in this case. I was the one who had told myself that I could see a man's soul through the set of his shoulders. And I was now more amused than anything else—could not wait to tell my friends what stupidness I had gotten up to. Everyone loves a good story of drunken mistakes, and up to that point I had not heard anything better than a gay Jew getting drunk and sleeping with a gay Nazi.
The thing is, that brunch was not the last time I saw him. He was incredibly attractive. He was young. Granted, he was old enough that he should have known a basic thumbnail sketch of the Holocaust—that does seem to me a prerequisite for being a human being in your 20s. But I overlooked it (because he was incredibly attractive) and used his age as the excuse.
Beyond that, what he was saying about Germany was so flatly ridiculous, so beyond the pale—and, perhaps more to the point, so incongruous with what I thought I had nonverbally come to know about him that first night—that I just assumed I would help him fix this weird, genocide-sized hole in his brain, he would be embarrassed about it later, and someday we would laugh, laugh, laugh about his Nazi past (when we weren't busy taking off future shirts and tugging at future buttons).
Which is to say I rationalized, self-deluded, and prepared to make a giant down payment on an enormous psychological remodeling project. Thankfully, he left town before I could get very far down this road.
I thought about the Nazi again when, at a Fourth of July party a few years later, I met a guy from an East Coast Ivy League school who had a lot of smart things to say about a lot of interesting subjects. Again, summer. Again, we ended up back at my place. Again, brunch the next day, at which we discussed the notable thing he'd told me as we were chitchatting in the morning light: He was a Republican.
A Log Cabin Republican, no less. And this was during the Bush years, when gay civil rights were being used as even more of a political wedge than they are now.
Again, my reaction was that this was too absurd a proposition to exist inside such an otherwise lovely gentleman. There's a thing more important than defending your basic civil rights? And that thing is lower taxes for the wealthy? Once again, I prepared for some brain patching and, I was sure, future laughter at his past confusion.
Once again, thankfully, he disappeared before I got too far down this road.
It's not just that I have a weakness for projects. Which I do. It's also that, to me, there is something so uniquely bizarre—so profoundly nonsensical—about a gay conservative that I always assume the person's politics are just an outgrowth of deep psychological damage. He's still very uncomfortable with his homosexuality, and so he is drawn to a political group that, just like him, is still very uncomfortable with his homosexuality. Fix the psychological damage, and the politics will quickly follow, I figure. Why waste a delightful (but for his politics) individual?
This is naive, I know. Intolerant, I'm sure. Maybe a touch arrogant, too. Gay conservatives have told me as much.
But they've never convinced me I'm wrong.
Which could be my own psychological damage. But isn't. I'm certain. I think.
T his past summer—what is it about summer and conservative men and me?—I met an anesthesiologist. He was my age, had the attractive bossiness of a man who is paid to control your consciousness, loved to talk politics. The president's health-care-reform push immediately came up.
He was opposed, on the grounds that reform shouldn't involve "liberals" cheering for people like him to make less money. He actually had some decent points. The cost of his education, and the debt it required, should end up being repaid by the value society places on his services. Plus, no one wants to be taken close to death and back by an anesthesiologist who isn't worth dropping some serious dough on. Makes sense, I thought.
But I think I just wanted to keep sleeping with him. When, every once in a while, I imagined us in a long relationship, that imagining always involved me convincing him, one day, that he was wrong.
Once again, he left town before I could try.