Home from work now, I lie in bed and watch the ceiling fan spin. It is dark in here. An arrow of borrowed light shoots in from the hallway. It runs fast along the carpet, landing on the bed’s edge just below my feet, missing me, but barely.
Evan will call soon. Our brief chat this morning has been on my mind all day. Did I give him an STD, and if so, what? Is he going to fly back here for revenge against a one-night stand? Do people do that? I can’t believe I was dumb enough to get drunk and have unprotected sex with someone I didn’t know.
The red light turns on half a second before the familiar song begins: I have a call. This time I don’t bother to look at the ID. “Hello?”
“Hey, Evan. What’s up?”
“Is now a good time to talk?” His tone is very matter-of-fact, so I follow suit.
“Yeah. So what are your symptoms, exactly?”
“I feel sick, and there’s some inflammation around the tip of my penis.”
“Hmm,” I put on my poor-man’s-physician hat. “What do you mean by ‘sick’?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t had sex with a guy in two years.”
Wow. That’s not right. Evan’s a good-looking guy; and while he lives in Oklahoma, that can’t be normal. I cut to the quick. “Look, all you can do is go to a doctor and let me know if you have something. Talking about it won’t get us far.”
“Well, so if I go get an STD test, isn’t my company gonna know about it from my insurance?” His pace is jumpier now.
“No, not at all,” I say, trading my poor-man’s-physician hat for a poor-man’s-lawyer one. “Your employer isn’t allowed to know anything about your medical situation, unless they need to. There’re all kinds of laws against that.”
“Well, what about the insurance bill? What’s it going to say, ‘STD test’?”
There is something juvenile in the way he says “STD test” that catches me. Evan is in his thirties, so this can’t be completely new to him. He should at least know the names of a few diseases or be capable of a more specific fear. “No, they’re very scientific. I’ve had them before. Why, do you have a roommate?” I ask.
Uh-oh. I think I know what that means. “Are you married?”
“Hmh-uhmh,” he mumbles.
“Wait, was that ‘mm-hmm,’ as in ‘yes,’ or ‘uh-unh,’ as in ‘no’?”
“That was a yes.” There is a long pause. “Are you still there?”
“I’m here,” I sigh, reaching for my poor-man’s-shrink hat. “OK, well, the good news is you probably don’t have anything. You’re just paranoid because you know you came to Vegas, got drunk, and did something really stupid with a stranger. So you’re freaking out because you realize you’ve put your wife at risk as well, and having an STD would mean having to tell her you cheated on her—and with a guy at that.”
“I know,” he says slowly. “You’re right.”
“Evan, listen,” I slow down, too. “Do you consider yourself straight or gay?”
“Like, bisexual or gay?”
“Gay.” I have not heard so much shame in that word since high school.
“Well, does your wife know?”
“She knows I used to date a guy before we got married, but that’s all. It’s a little more complicated now.”
“Do you have kids?”
Good grief, Charlie Brown. Where is Lucy when we need real psychiatric help? “Evan, it’s not my business, but you need to tell your wife you’re gay. If she’s married to a man who isn’t capable of loving her romantically, she needs to know that.”
“That’s not the issue. We haven’t been physical in over six months.”
“Well then she probably feels really ugly! She probably thinks you’re not attracted to her. And I guess you’re not, but you should let her know it’s because you’re attracted to men. She’ll be relieved—in that respect, anyway.”
“I’ve just decided to put my own desires on the back burner so I can raise my daughters.” There is a heavy sadness in his voice that discomforts me. Tired, I discard all my hats.
“Evan, it’s one thing for you to make that decision for yourself, but it’s another for you to make it for your wife too. She should know she’s married to a gay man.” There is another long pause.
“I should get going,” he says. “I’ll go to the clinic tomorrow.”
“Please do, and let me know if you have anything.”
“I will,” he promises, and we say goodbye. I lie back on my bed again. As the ceiling fan spins, small cakes of dust come off its edges. I wonder how it ever got so dirty.