Twice a week Gabbie packed up her pillow and spent the night with Charlie.
She also spent a lot of time with him on weekdays and at night in the bar. Nights at the bar were especially important to Gabbie because she felt trapped in the house all day. And, she loved to play shuffleboard. Every night she'd give me a detailed description of her shuffleboard maneuvers, victories and losses. Drinking went along with shuffleboard. She always drank hard liquor, never beer, so in a two hour period she could easily down three or four whiskey sours on an empty stomach. The booze amplified her moods when she came home. If she had a few good games of shuffleboard, she'd be giddy. If she lost, she'd be morose and depressed. Either way, she'd be pretty buzzed.
As the weeks ticked past, I learned more about Charlie. I learned that he was in the US illegally. I learned that he had been physically abused by his alcoholic father as a child. I learned that he had fathered multiple children out of wedlock all over the globe; the only one he kept in contact with was his son with his crazy ex-wife.
I learned that he had at least two DUIs and he owed the county court about $1800 in unpaid DUI fines. One night, he got into a fight at the bar and when the police checked his record, they put him in jail for three days---not because of the fight, but because of the unpaid court fees.
Gabbie thought she could teach Charlie to be more responsible, especially with his money. All he cared about was whether he had enough money to drink and eat that day. Saving to pay rent or utilities was something that never crossed his mind. Or if it did, he never bothered to worry about them. Once he moved off his ex-wife's couch and got a small apartment, he paid one month's rent. Thereafter, his landlady spent months getting him evicted because he never paid again.
Charlie didn't worry about paying his bills, but Gabbie did. And she worried about everything else in his life too. I got to hear all about it---two out of every three of our conversations had something to do with Charlie.
The very best thing I learned about Charlie was that he accidentally killed a man and served time for manslaughter.
Manslaughter? Multiple DUIs? Illegitimate children all over the world? Pay one month's rent then wait to be evicted? The more I learned about him the more I wondered how long it would take for Gabbie to realize that she should run away from him and never look back. It was painfully obvious that beneath Charlie's chatty, charming demeanor, he was a nightmare.
I couldn't understand why Gabbie was so stupid about him; she had always been very smart and very savvy about people. I figured it was only a matter of time before she realized that Charlie was a disaster. So, as much as I hated him, I decided to be patient and wait for their relationship to inevitably implode. I knew it was the best way to end Gabbie's ridiculous infatuation with him.
It didn't take long for the first flecks of shit to hit the fan.
The two of them had been fucking for about six weeks, at least as far as I knew. (I did my best to be in denial about the details.) One Friday night, a VERY large and unattractive woman came into the bar and started a vicious, screaming fight with Charlie. Gabbie stepped in to defend him and suddenly found herself targeted. The woman, Fat Mary, told her to mind her own business---Charlie was her boyfriend.
The revelation that Charlie was fucking another woman hit Gabbie hard. Angry, mad, pissed...put them together and multiply by ten and you'll have some idea of the intensity of Gabbie's fury.
The drama lasted for several weeks and came to cathartic climax when Gabbie and Fat Mary had a screaming, drunken verbal brawl in the middle of our small town. "WHY ARE YOU MARRIED AND FUCKING AROUND WITH MY BOYFRIEND?!!!" That's a good question Mary.
Charlie defended his behavior by saying that he was not accountable to Gabbie because she already had a husband. He also tried to redeem himself by dumping Fat Mary.
I really thought the Fat Mary affair was going to be the end of dear old Charlie, but it wasn't. Within days he and Gabbie were back to hanging out, day and night.
Two weeks later, a gigantic load of shit hit the fan: Gabbie discovered she had genital warts.
To call Gabbie a germaphobe was an understatement. She was borderline obsessive-compulsive about washing her hands and was extremely paranoid about getting any disease or illness. Contracting genital warts was the worst thing that ever happened to her. She expected me to be sympathetic, and outwardly I was, but inside...I loved it. What's the expression? "Play with fire long enough and you'll get burned."
Gabbie suffered (and I do mean suffered) through four months of laser and other treatments at Planned Parenthood to get rid of the warts. For nearly two years afterward she had me regularly play gynecologist and check her twat for any sign of warts.
To me, there's a whole lot of worse things she could have contracted instead of genital warts. To Gabbie, it was a life-and-death situation and her wrath was formidable.
She said, and I was inclined to believe her, that once she knew Charlie had 'cheated' on her, she stopped having sex with him. It was just her bad luck that she had already contracted the warts by that time and didn't know it. The warts, she said, permanently sealed his fate. Under no circumstances was she ever going to trust him again.
I was elated. Hearing this news made for one of the happiest days I'd had in a very long time.
My joy was somewhat premature. In the following weeks I realized that Gabbie was not done with Charlie completely. She was just done fucking him.
Confession time. As much as I hated Charlie, I owe him a measure of gratitude. He did what no OB/GYN or therapist or I could do, which was to get Gabbie to relax enough to be correctly penetrated. So, as if I have not humiliated myself enough in this blog, I now get to reveal that Charlie made normal sex possible for Gabbie and I. After she was done having sex with Charlie and was cured of the warts, I got to officially lose my straight-virginity. At the age of 41.
Another proud Cameron moment.
I didn't have any objections to our usual slip-n-slide sex, the kind Gabbie and I had for 20 years; it wasn't gross and I got off; but it certainly wasn't anything great. Never any fireworks. Maybe a sparkler every once in a while.
Missing the "wow" factor was no great surprise. I'm gay. I wouldn't have had sex with a woman if I wasn't married to one.
Real straight sex, however, turned out to make for BIG fireworks. I had no idea what I had been missing all those years. Fucking a woman really did feel amazing.
I had to ask myself: did it feel better than sex with a man?
It was hard to admit after so many years...but yes, yes it did. I liked fucking Gabbie's cunt better than fucking a man's ass. Maybe I had never fucked the right man's ass, but, well, her cunt was more pleasurable.
I never expected to have a straight sex revelation at 41. The unexpectedness was shocking. But it didn't change my world. I'm still gay. I just happen to think about fucking a cunt much more often than I ever used to.
Gabbie's continuing friendship with Charlie caused a lot of problems for her, on multiple fronts.
She was only close to two family members, her mother and her sister. Neither of them liked Charlie. More than that, they lived in fear that their friends might think Gabbie was cheating on me. They therefore endlessly criticized Gabbie and everything she did. When she did nothing to appease them, the relationships suffered. Gabbie and her mother fought constantly. Gabbie and her sister stopped speaking to each other and have not spoken since.
Linda also stopped speaking to Gabbie because of Charlie.
Our kids were speaking to their mother, but that was because they were oblivious to her relationship with Charlie. I was an enabler, I guess, because I did everything I could to make excuses for the fact that Gabbie was always out of the house. Over time, Gabbie's absence became routine and her relationship with all three kids weakened. She lost all patience for them, their problems and most especially, their endless prattle. When she was at home all she could think about was going to the bar.
One day in early August of 2008, Gabbie and Conrad got into an argument about something. It was nothing important, but any noise or tension in the house was too much for her. Once the argument began I knew it would end when she fled to the bar for the rest of the day and night.
What surprised me was what she said moments before she escaped out the door.
"As soon as Rose graduates from high school, I'm going to England for a whole year. BY MYSELF. And maybe, just maybe, I'll come back."
After being with Gabbie for 22 years, I knew when to take her seriously and when to ignore her. In this case, she was quite serious.
Gabbie had talked about 'getting away' multiple times over a multi-year period, but that was the very first time she set a date and voiced a plan. It was a pivotal moment for me because I had to ask myself: why am I fighting so hard to preserve our marriage? Why do I spend night after night alone, while she's out carousing, when she intends to leave as soon as the kids are grown?
All at once, our relationship seemed incredibly pointless.
I had a lot to think about. Over the next few weeks I narrowed my confused thoughts into a simple question: If Gabbie was going to leave in 9 years, should I wait until then to start a new life, or, should I ask her to leave now, thereby freeing us both to find new lives?
Why stay? Conrad, John and Rose.
Why leave? In the gay world, age and youthful-looks matter. A lot. If I waited nine years I'd be 51. And I'd probably look nine years older. Who would want me? Would I spend the last of my prime years waiting for the kids to grow up only to discover afterward that no gay man would have me?
I had to do some research. Was being 50, gay and single such a bad thing? Would happiness be possible?
For a few weeks I read through all the Misc Romance M4M ads on Craigslist. Not just in the Bay Area where I live, but throughout the country. Mostly, the guys who sounded interesting to me were looking for guys 40 and under. Every once in a while, a guy would not specify an age or would list an age over 50. It was an unscientific sampling method but the results were not good.
I went a step further and placed a short ad in the Seattle Craigslist Misc Romance M4M. I wanted to see if I tried to date now what kind of men I would attract. In the ad I included my age and stats and a current face picture. All I said was that I was looking to date. I got maybe 10 replies. Two were kind of interesting. Overall, the results were somewhat encouraging at 42 but I had no idea who would want to date me if I was 51.
To answer my question, I decided that I had to disclose more about myself and my situation. I posted a long ad in the Los Angeles Craigslist Misc Romance M4M where I explained my dilemma and asked whether I should leave Gabbie now or wait until the kids were grown. I also asked whether I would be datable at 51 and posted a face picture.
I received over 30 replies in two days. They ran the gamut. Some were simple cut and paste replies from guys who seemed willing to date anyone. Some were lengthy personal histories that offered support. Several replies said I'd be ok if I waited---those gave me hope!
One reply really hit me in the gut. The guy said, "I think your priority should be your kids not you. ... You got yourself into this predicament, now it is your responsibility to see it through."
But he was right.
I canceled the ad immediately. I had my answer. Although Gabbie seemed to have no problem abandoning me at 51, I had a real problem choosing a gay life at 42 and turning my kids' lives upside down.
Until Gabbie actually left me, I was not going to do anything to disrupt my kids' lives.
In January of 2010, I had a new reason to question my decision.