When I met Ivor in Califano Park, I didn’t know how to begin a conversation with him.
“Matt’s changed,” was what I finally came up with.
“Well, he’s married. For most people that would be ordinary. But there was a time he couldn’t connect with anyone. Now he doesn’t seem so… eccentric.”
“He doesn’t think he ever was.”
“We’re all outside the mainstream in one way or another. What’s different about Matt is that he never cared.”
“So how are you outside the mainstream?”
“Me? Well, my partner is a man.”
“Yeah. When did that happen?”
He laughed. “Always. Never. It’s not like there was some defining moment when I went into the boy’s locker room and said, ‘Aha!’ I tried to do what everybody else was doing. Only, after I’d been married for six years I realized I was sad all the time. I had the pieces – wife, career, house, kids – but they didn’t make a whole.”
Megan dropped her shovel. “I want to swing now!” she said.
I followed Ivor to the swings and in a moment, Chloe joined us. I lifted her onto the seat. “What do you think of Matt’s views on sexual orientation?”
“You mean the theory that genes determine your sexual orientation, political party and favorite flavor of ice cream?”
I felt a gush of relief to hear Ivor making light of it. “You don’t agree?”
“It’s not that I disagree. It’s just that I don’t want to give up the idea I have some control over my life. The more you focus on whatever made you the way you are, the more you’re going to feel that you can’t do anything about it.” He caught Megan and held her until she kicked her feet in the swing, then launched her into space once again. “And then you’re screwed.”
“So what Mom and Dad and Leif and Laura did, the group marriage…”
“That was their thing. This is my thing. Go forward.”
“I’ve already reached Goal Number One: A guy I can love.”
“I’d love to meet him.”
“It could be arranged.”
All the Dark is Light
He turned. “Hey, Gabriel! Put that down!” At the climbing structure, Gabriel had raised a small tree branch over the pirate’s head. Dante, similarly armed, was chasing the pirate’s companion.
“Dante!” I shouted. Both boys ignored me, but in a few minutes Ivor somehow had the four of them collaborating in a sea battle against imaginary foes. In that way, the afternoon passed more or less in harmony. And as we sat on a bench by the sandbox Ivor began to confide as casually as if we were still brother and sister. He told me about a bar in downtown Pleasant Valley that I never knew was our town gay bar, about the telephone services and newspaper ads. He made funny stories out of his efforts to keep the truth from Julia.
But of course, eventually she found out. Ivor’s smile dropped. “She acted as if I had betrayed her, as if I’d secretly wanted to be with men all my life and tricked her into thinking I wanted to be with her. The truth is that in the beginning, I really loved her. And after that, what was I going to say? I didn’t know myself where I was heading or what it meant. And anyway, I never put her at risk. I was always careful.”
Listening felt like looking at a photo negative of my own story: all the dark was light and vice versa.
Ivor was trying to puzzle out my expression. “You don’t believe me?”
“It’s not that.”
“You agree with her. You think I’m a jerk.”
“No, no. It’s just….” And then in turn I told him then the whole story of Charlie’s affair.
He put his arm around me, exactly as I remembered it.
“Daddy,” Megan called to him, “catch me.” She had climbed to the top of the slide. Ivor got up, and I followed.
“So how are things going over at Matt’s?” He nodded to Megan, waiting for her to drop.
I told him about the broken lamp, the torn curtain, strawberries ground into the carpet, Chloe’s accident in the bathroom.
“What I was thinking,” Ivor said, “Is that if you guys wanted to come back to our place to stay tonight, we have a lot more room than Matt and Penny do. Gabriel and Megan love having guests to show around.”
I suddenly realized I would like nothing better. Gratitude knotted my tongue. “Oh, we’d be lovely… that love to!”
Ivor laughed. “Then it’s a plan.”