I met Eugene in high school and I should have known what I was getting myself into, but the sociological climate of the early 90s was working against me. Depression and vague rage were popular due to the advent of grunge music, and because I was in high school, all that stuff was heightened. It would be beautifully narrative if I could think of my falling for Eugene as a symbol of our turbulent times – he was a brooding, mysterious loner, just like the misunderstood geniuses you see in Cameron Crowe movies. And I was finally admitting to myself that I liked boys; figuring that out at sixteen in a high school world populated by slackers and overachievers and the heavily medicated might have made Eugene’s unique brand of lunacy appealing.
But mostly, it was the fact that he could grow a beard at seventeen. That, and those blue, blue eyes.
Of course, like most straight-guy crushes, it ended disastrously. After Eugene uncovered my intentions – via an ill-advised game of Truth or Dare, no less – he actually seemed curious. What followed was an even more ill advised sticky-fumble session, during which I realized that while I was giving inexpert head to the love of my life, he was having an experiment he was only half-heartedly into. Of course, this only meant that grunge suddenly made way more sense. That Pearl Jam song, “Black”? Totally written about me.
The lesson I should have learned is this: keep the straight guys untouchable. This had worked great during my nascent gay days when I lusted after celebrities before I knew what lust really was. Remember that 80’s show Head of the Class? The first guy I ever crushed on was the chubby guy who sat in the back row wearing flannel and Chuck Taylors and cracked jokes and had this hair I used to imagine running my hands through. Played by Dan Schneider, Dennis Blunden was the wellspring from which all my other attractions erupted. The hypothesis goes as such: Dennis’s penchant for flannel begat my attraction for Al Borland on Home Improvement, whose beard got me thinking about Riker from Star Trek, whose hairy chest turned me into the bear-crazy cub you see before you. Essentially, my lust is Darwinian; if not for Dan Schneider, this might be a column about how much I’m into the vapid clone scene. Fetch me a Diet Red Bull, Marco, I’m late for the foam party!
Sadly, me being me, I found a way to ruin my first crush, too. You know that song, “Centerfold,” where the girl the guy is into is lodged in his memory as this pristine high school angel until he later sees her in a porno magazine? My thing is like that, except for a sad lack of naked Dan Schneider. See, I happened to stumble across his Twitter feed (“stumble across” in this case means “actively seek out,” because I am occasionally a lunatic myself), and signed up at once, perhaps hoping for a string of insightful self-reflective tweets captured brilliantly in 140 characters or less. Instead? His Twitter is almost entirely a marketing gimmick pushing the TV show he’s currently writing. Completely understandable, entirely normal … and overwhelmingly disappointing. When you’ve traced back every crush, every lust, every love back to one individual – one fictional individual – you’re inevitably going to feel disillusioned when you realize he’s just a regular working Joe trying to make a buck.
For what it’s worth, though, I ended up running into Eugene again not too long ago. I found him at random, bumping into him at a camping-goods store in town, where he was then working. We went out for burritos, and maybe, yes, I did harbor some illusions that he’d gone gay somewhere along the way and would desperately want to make out with me. Alas: he was still straight, and seeing a girl, and startlingly sane. (And, I must mention, still bearded.) No sticky fumblings this time, just one of those conversations between guys who went to high school together. Near the end, he said to me, “I’m sorry if I fucked things up back then.”
Back in high school, our climaxes had been anticlimactic. I’d been waiting years for real release. Which goes to show, I guess, that sometimes even one-sided sociopathic first love has a happy ending.