Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Don: Champaign 1988

There's a lot of people I have not written about and one of them is Don. When I first met Fru, she was in Champaign, Illinois and lived in a duplex on Ivy Court. She had just broken up with a long time boyfriend (fiance at one point) and had taken a roommate, who was Don. Don worked at the same bank as Fru. So, in 1988, when I moved from Florida to Champaign to live with Fru, Don lived with us--or, I with them. Don was--still is--Fru's best friend, I think. There was no romantic attachment between them because Don is gay. Now, this was '88, and not only was it a little unusual for a guy to come move in with a household already containing a man and a woman, but the fact that one of them was gay was--I suppose--rather strange. 
Fru's grandmother asked, when I moved up, "But what about Don?", thinking that he and Fru were linked. And this reaction was due to the fact that Don kept his sexuality hidden to most people. Unfortunately, even in the late 80's, he felt a need to do that, mainly for professional reasons. Champaign, though a college town, a town I like, is a small town. Conservative for the most part. Surrounded by corn and soybean farmers and such. I think Fru (and I)--and of course those in the semi-hidden gay community there--were the only ones he had told. So, I lived with Fru, stayed in her room, and Don had the other room. Fru cleaned most of the house, Don cleaned the bathroom, I did most of the cooking. Fru's cat, M.R., lived there too. I never thought much about the whole arrangement. (My oldest brother had 'come out' prior to this, later my sister--though that was a non-issue with me, too; I didn't give a damn what a person's sexuality was.)
And Don was (is) a good guy, became a good friend. He was (is) Fru's confidant. He helped me, indirectly, to understand gay people's predicaments in this world, I think. I met his non-straight friends and they were all very nice people. And Don has been close to us all these years.
Eventually, he got out of Champaign. He moved to Chicago, where he no longer had to hide, and he has flourished there (with a few ups and downs). Don's a Chicago guy. Very involved in the politics and welfare of his community (he met Barack Obama) and local theatre (he knows Edward Albee). Still, I'm not sure the people who knew him in Champaign know that he's gay.
So, I guess it's kind of interesting that we all lived together in a town like Champaign, lived serenely and well. But, really, I'm sorry to concentrate on the singular fact of his sexuality. It's not how I view him or define him (despite this post). He's a friend, he's close to Fru and family. That's Don. I don't have much else to say, because--though he's led and leads an interesting life--he's just simply that: my friend.

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