May 1970, New York
Louie walked down the narrow entrance hall of my parents’ brownstone duplex on Manhattan’s East Side. His slim frame was clad in neatly creased trousers, the perfect linen sports jacket for late spring, a pale mauve Turnbull and Asser shirt with French cuffs and Windsor knotted tie. He smiled broadly at the sight of me and I took in his round, playful face, the aquiline nose supporting aviator glasses, the receding hairline, and the array of sparkling teeth - slightly crooked, just the way I liked teeth to be. I returned his smile as best I could, kissed him hello then excused myself, repaired quickly to the nearby powder room and burst into tears.
My lawyer mother and her equally accomplished and caring husband, my stepfather, were throwing a buffet dinner party to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. I was in no shape to celebrate. I had just kicked Randy, my husband of five years, out of my life. The last straw was when Randy failed to pay his share of our mortgage, but for a long time he’d been leaving me alone at home, allegedly in pursuit of foreign business, but perhaps in pursuit of freedom from the domesticity of our life with our two-year-old daughter. I didn’t know which. I just knew our marriage was over and I was wretched.
My parents were divorced when I was seven after which my brilliant and charismatic father disappeared until I was twelve and thereafter only appeared intermittently until his death when I was twenty-one. My elegant and hardworking mother, third in her law school class at Columbia, was hell bent on establishing herself as a practicing lawyer at a time when women lawyers, however qualified, were only offered jobs as secretaries. She was home very little and left me in the hands of various carers. I was a homely and underachieving child and struggled to make friends. In my solitude I determined two things: first, I had to have not just a career but a profession in order to measure up, second, that I would search for and find the perfect man with whom to share my adult life, so I would never again have to be so alone.
I decided to be an architect at age ten. That way, I would never have to compete with my accomplished parents. I majored in pre-architecture at Brown University and by the time I graduated I had been accepted by the architecture schools at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, then considered the best thanks to the presence of Louis Kahn. But by then I was having second thoughts about my choice of careers. I understood that if I wished to make it as a woman in a profession even less open to women than law, I would have to be better educated and better qualified all around than my male competition. I wasn’t sure I had either the talent or the smarts to make it through architecture school. Besides, I loved the theater. All through my college years I took drama classes, acted, sang, directed, and wrote theater reviews.
In summer 1961 I landed a spot as a set design assistant at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. Albert Fuller, age thirty-six, was one of many stars in Spoleto’s chamber music program, a Juilliard professor with a specialty in early music and period-authentic instruments. (My passion for classical music, and the harpsichord in particular, was shaped by the taste of my largely absent father.) Fuller was also reputed to host great parties that included many of the musicians and actors whom I aspired to meet. One evening, when I heard he was entertaining, I found a Garbo-like picture hat, sat it rakishly on the side of my head, and trotted down the steep, cobbled Spoletini streets to Albert’s digs. When I arrived at his door, he looked at the hat, then me, and all but hooted, “And whoo are you?” I explained, expressed my admiration for his playing, and was invited in.
Back in New York that fall, I took a semester off to figure out whether I wanted to go into set design, or to stick with architecture. Architecture won. I applied to take classes at Columbia’s school of architecture to prepare for going to Penn the next fall. However, based on my transcript and portfolio, Columbia accepted me into their full program starting immediately. Even though, at that time, Columbia’s architecture school was inferior to Penn’s, I accepted Columbia’s offer because I could stay in New York and remain in touch with my many Spoleto friends and—though I never admitted this to anyone—because I thought I might fare better at a lesser school.
Albert had a good-sized apartment on West 54th where he attempted to recreate the salon atmosphere of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century chamber music. In that social milieu, people smoked, drank, conversed, and ate as the musicians played on. Albert was also very into Chinese food—Szechuan, not Cantonese—and was learning to cook Chinese himself. Before one of these events, he would corral his Juilliard students into coming to his apartment and doing the massive prep work for, say, twenty friends who would later arrive for an evening of Couperin, Lully, Rameau, and flowing booze, which would terminate with an exquisite four-or five-course Chinese banquet.
I was thrilled to be invited to Albert’s salons. Other guests included fellow musicians, aspiring visual artists, doctors of many areas of expertise, and professional groupies like me and my new husband. Randy was thrilled to find himself among such distinguished company. We met Albert’s close friend and patron Gregory Smith (a wealthy former diplomat and expert in Russian culture and affairs), the venerable Miss Alice Tully, the Corning Glass heiress who gave her name (and money) to the chamber music concert hall at Lincoln Center; and Albert’s close friend, Louie, from Yale, then senior editor at Progressive Architecture.
Randy’s work developing and selling computer systems and software took him out of town regularly; I would go to Albert’s soirées on my own and seek out Louie’s company, as we were the only guests involved in architecture. Plus Louie was good looking, tallish and slender, and seemed interested in helping me launch my career as an architect.
Like Spoleto itself, this was a very gay scene. Homosexual men way outnumbered heterosexual men and women. Louie, whom I had assumed was gay, was clear about his orientation, even about his manly studsmanship, which surprised me as he seemed a bit refined for that role.
What did I know?
Louie was eleven years my senior and an important figure in the architectural press. He had been born in Alabama, the only child of Amanda, an attractive, hardworking secretary who had been abandoned early on by Louie’s father. When Louie was three or four, his mother fled Birmingham with Louie in tow, rented a small cold-water flat in the East 30s in Manhattan, and got a secretarial job at Texaco. Although they lived on the brink of poverty, Amanda regularly reminded Louie of his fine southern heritage, the need for exquisite manners at all times, and the importance of the (Episcopal) Church.
As a child Louie had such a fine voice that Amanda parlayed a place for him at the Episcopal Choir School for Boys at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan. Back then the Cathedral School provided food, housing, and general education for only forty-five boys, who were, in turn, required to sing two services every Sunday and four or five evensongs during the week. In addition, Louie, and other students like him, were invited or perhaps required to satisfy the sexual appetites of several of the clergymen on the faculty.
How do I know? Because Louie told me.
Did he mind? I wasn’t sure. Perhaps not.
After the Cathedral School Louie was awarded a scholarship to Choate, an elite New England boarding school. Although he was accustomed to boarding, Choate was not the happy experience that the Cathedral School had been. It was still all boys but much bigger, and almost all his fellow students were better off than he. He was ashamed of his penury. He feared engaging in friendships where he might be invited to someone’s house but could not accept because he could not reciprocate. Singing was unimportant at Choate compared to money, social position and athletic prowess. But he did get his first taste of acting and took this new passion with him to Kenyon College.
At Kenyon Louie gave his all to the theatre where he regularly shared the stage with his classmate Paul Newman. “Paul always used to say that I was a better actor than he was.” Louie often told me.
While Louie was at Kenyon, his mother, Amanda, was swept off her feet by a burly Dutchman raised in Brazil, who was an engineer at Texaco. They married and together bought a 100-acre working farm in Krumsville, Pennsylvania, in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country. The main house and outbuildings were in much need of modernization, but Henry loved projects, and for Henry and Amanda, and subsequently for Louie and many other visitors, that farm was a piece of paradise. With Henry in the picture, tight-fisted though he was, Louie had a few more options than previously. After Kenyon, he wanted desperately to go on to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Henry agreed to stake Louie to a year at RADA with the understanding that Louie would return to the States to get a graduate degree in some field that would lead to a viable source of income. After his year at RADA Louie was accepted by Yale where he met Albert Fuller and obtained a master’s degree in English and writing.
Randy and Louie got along well. Randy enjoyed Louie’s wit and erudition. Louie enjoyed Randy’s spontaneous and noisy charm and obvious appreciation of the arts. Louie invited us to his Pennsylvania Dutch farm for a fall weekend. There I learned that Louie’s stepfather, Henry, had died only five years after his marriage to Amanda and left her the farm but no money to make any of the much-needed improvements. The fields were leased to a neighboring farmer, the rent for which paid for the farm’s basic upkeep. Amanda retired, moved to Florida for the winters, and spent only the four summer months at the farm. Louie had the use of the farm the rest of the year, although he closed it down from December to March as the stone farmhouse was neither heated nor insulated. It did have a huge fireplace and a coal stove in the kitchen wing. The indoor plumbing, doubtless impressive when it was first installed, was primitive by 70s standards, consisting only of the kitchen sink and a single bathroom on the ground floor that had to serve all five bedrooms, four of which were separated from it by a steep staircase.
Louie loved this farm and poured body and soul into its maintenance and refurbishing. The thick plaster walls of each room were white, but the heavy, flat wood base, door, and window trim in each was painted a different saturated hue: mustard yellow, fire-engine red, Christmas-tree green, marine blue, even magenta. Each room was furnished with beds, chairs, and dressers he had picked up in local farm sales or at Renninger’s Antique and Farmer’s Market in nearby Kutztown. Here he entertained his almost exclusively male friends, his lovers and theirs. The land rolled to the horizon in soft waves. The grays of the Allegheny Mountains in the distance were soothing and majestic. The local culture was unspoiled and rich. What Louie did with the interior of the farmhouse was stunning and inventive. However impossible an aspiration it might have been, Randy and I wanted a Pennsylvania Dutch farm as well.
After our daughter, Vanessa, was born, Randy’s business trips abroad increased in frequency and length. While he had been a doting father to his son by his first marriage, he had only been a part time parent. Our new domesticity was reining him in and shutting him down. When he was home, he was moody, morose and withdrawn, anxiously awaiting the next escape. I mourned his absences and begged him to spend more time with us, to no avail. As he withdrew further and further both mentally and geographically, I became increasingly needy. Being a new mother and nursing a fledgling career wasn’t enough to fill the long nights and lonely weekends that Randy was gone. My attraction to Randy waned as my despair deepened. I had two brief and unsatisfactory affairs.
During this period, Louie often took me to dinner to encourage me to develop a subspecialty in design for the performing arts based on my experience in Spoleto. I thrived on his attention and support, and with his help, both as senior editor at Progressive Architecture and chairman of the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), I did so.
During these dinners I complained about the sorry state of my marriage, which Louie claimed unimaginable as Randy and I were so “the perfect couple.” In exchange for my confessed misery, Louie shared with me how men of his “persuasion” (a euphemism of the time) found sex with unknown partners: in places like the Central Park Rambles, gay bathhouses, and the vast men’s rooms in Pennsylvania and Grand Central Stations. Sometimes the context was more refined. Friends would gift the social and sexual services of a particularly attractive younger man to a friend for an evening or a weekend. A college classmate, with whom I had sung in the Brown Chorus but had not heard of since, had been so gifted to Louie. I was glad for news of him. Other contexts, like “fist-fucking” bar pickups in the backs of flatbed trucks parked in New York’s meat-packing district, were less refined.
I was stunned, repulsed and also fascinated. It is not as though I knew nothing about male homosexuality. Spoleto had been a very homosexual environment with men like Gian Carlo Menotti, Samuel Barber, Luchino Visconti and the German photographer, Herbert List, each in attendance with his coterie of beautiful young men, many of whom had girlfriends and/or affairs with women on the side, either because they wanted to or for the sake of social convention or both. During the nine years between my parents’ divorce and my mother’s second marriage, my mother went out almost exclusively with gay men. She found them to be smarter, more entertaining and appreciative of her mix of intellectual brilliance, competence and style than the few available heterosexual men. She also was good friends with many male couples. Although I liked almost all her gay male friends, I never thought much about how they had sex. I was too preoccupied by my own sexual fantasies.
Sex to me was all bound up with my notions of “romance,” wanting and having the ultimate intimacy with someone I loved and who loved me equally. Sex solely for sex’s sake was not on for respectable girls at that time. I played an endless loop of romantic scenes that ended in copulation in my teenaged mind. I so cherished the idea of this experience that it wasn’t until I was nineteen and very much in love with my college boyfriend, a brilliant young composer, that I lost my virginity. The waves of rapture that swept over me in that borrowed bed in Providence, Rhode Island were well worth the wait. I feared sex for sex’s sake might become an addiction. However, my subsequent sexual experiences usually required a pretext of romance. They were generally satisfying and relatively conventional. I think I was frightened of anything more adventurous and was grateful that it hadn’t been on offer.
That Louie and men like him had often violent sex with total strangers and may even have found it desirable was shocking to me. Much as I hadn’t wanted to ask if he had enjoyed being abused by the priests at the Choir School, I didn’t want to ask if he enjoyed violent sex with strangers because I was afraid the answer might be, “Yes.” But I sensed in his telling that he felt both sadness and shame, as well as envy of how easy it was for heterosexuals to be open about their sexual partners and pleasures.
Next I learned that Louie, Albert Fuller, and another artist friend from their time at Yale were all seeing a Greenwich Village psychiatrist who believed that analysis and therapy could change one’s sexual orientation. Appalling as it might seem now, conversion therapy was not unusual for the late ’60s, and these three effete buddies were giving it a shot. Coincidentally, the shrink’s first name was Leslie, and her young daughter was named Vanessa. This coincidence made me uncomfortable. It was as though I was part of the conversion process, which I didn’t want to be. I preferred that by the time I was to be involved, were I to be involved, the conversion would be a fait accompli.
Two months before my thirtieth birthday, Louie invited Randy and me back to his farm for a weekend.
“Go on your own.” Randy said. “I’ll be in Germany.” What was unsaid was that because Louie was gay, it would be okay for me to spend a weekend alone with him. “Find as a farm to buy while you’re at it.”
“With what?” We had just spent all our own money and borrowed to the max from our parents to buy and renovate our brownstone. We were up to our ears in debt.
“Go and look anyway.”
“That’s insane.” I said. “Please come with me. You love Louie’s farm as much as I do.”
“Just go and find us our own farm.” I knew not to keep arguing. The door was closed. Despite the cost of our renovation, Randy was on a contemporary art buying binge and had committed us to purchase some very expensive paintings: two by Morris Louis, an Homage to the Square by Josef Albers and one of Hans Hofmann’s abstract red paintings with yellow squares. He claimed that they were tremendous investments. Maybe so, but they were investments we couldn’t afford. There was no way we could buy, much less maintain, a farm in the Dutch country, and if there were, when would Randy be around enough to enjoy it?
A further complication Randy was unaware of was that Louie was no longer “safe.” His “conversion” was close to complete, and he was hoping to marry and start a family. At the same time I was looking for the family life I had been unable to achieve with Randy. When Vanessa and I went to the farm that spring, I shared Louie’s bed, and it was better than fine.
A month later, when Randy couldn’t come up with his share of our mortgage payment, I kicked him out of our newly renovated brownstone and told him to take his fancy paintings with him. I expected him to be shattered. Although my physical attraction to Randy had diminished, I hoped that he would realize the damage his being away so much had done, how much we had together: his son, our daughter, our house, our families that loved us and even liked each other. I hoped he would make some grande jeste and sweep me off my feet; that we would renew our love for one another and restart as the family I had so wanted us to be.
No such thing occurred.
If anything, Randy was relieved that I was involved with Louie and he was off the hook. It was I who was shattered.
The deep sadness I felt about the end of my marriage played on as a continuo beneath the relatively pleasant melodic line of the life Louie and I started to share as a couple. Sometimes, like the night of my birthday party, the pain was almost unbearable. But most of the time, I was able to ignore or suppress it. Louie was very good to me and wonderful both with Vanessa and Randy’s son by his first marriage, with whom I remained involved. An added plus was meeting all the architects who worshipped the pearls from Louie’s pen—a partial compensation for having attended a mediocre architecture school because I hadn’t had the confidence to attend the best.
The first shock wave came when, in early summer, Louie took me to the farm to meet his mother, Amanda, just up from Florida. Despite the heavy drawl, trim physique, and sugary manner, she looked and acted more like Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun” than Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind.” She took one look at me and saw trouble. “Louie, hon, where is Lale going to sleep?” she drawled.
“Upstairs in my room, mother.”
“Oh, Louie you can’t do that. It isn’t right, not in my house. It isn’t Christian!”
“Mother, I am forty-one and old enough to sleep with whomever I like, wherever I like, in this or any house! Lale and I are very serious. about each other. As soon as she is divorced we will be getting married, and you’ll have grandchildren at last!”
That seemed to satisfy Amanda for the time being, but I was stunned. Despite my attraction to Louie, the stability I longed for, and the talks we had had about his aspirations for a family, I was nowhere near ready to contemplate marrying anyone, much less Louie. My separation from Randy was way too new, and my grief too raw.
Throughout our first dinner, Amanda asked about various of Louie’s close friends, those charming boys that he’d brought down over previous summers. How nice, intelligent, and well-mannered they were! I was shocked. Amanda had no idea of Louie’s sexual orientation! When the dishes were done and we were back in Louie’s room, I exploded. “Your mother hasn’t a clue about who you’ve been sleeping with all these years, has she?”
“Are you going to tell her and set the record straight, so she stops thinking of me as the Whore of Babylon?”
“Why not? You know how I loathe hypocrisy and dishonesty. If it’s okay with me that you’ve been exclusively with men until now, it should be okay with your mother. No?”
I don’t know where the conversation went after this. Alcohol took over. All I knew then was that I was furious, humiliated and didn’t want to return to the farm until Amanda had gone back to Florida. Now I realize that Louie couldn’t possibly have admitted his homosexuality to his mother. She was relatively uneducated, very into the church and came from a southern state in which, until the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, sodomy was a felony punishable by imprisonment.
A second less intense but equally painful shockwave was that many of Louie’s friends, those charming boys he brought down to the farm for the weekend and many of his more adult friends as well, dropped Louie once he took up with me. Changing sides as he had was read by many as betrayal. In addition, almost all Randy’s and my friends dropped me although for a different reason: how could I have left a man as lovable, bright, and sensitive as Randy? We were a perfect couple, feted and adored by everyone! I must be some kind of monster. Better for Randy to be done with me.
Fortunately, my involvement both with my career and the care of my two-year-old daughter, and Louie finally having something of a “normal” family life with a woman and her child, played louder than the ongoing drone of my sadness and smoothed over many of the bumps in our combined path. Excessive amounts of gin on the rocks before and during dinner helped. Over the next year and a half, I completed my first significant design project: the new American Place Theatre (fifty feet underground at 46th Street and Sixth Avenue) for Richard D. Kaplan, Architect. I took the usual cram courses to prepare for the seven-part architectural licensing exams and sat for those exams while Louie continued to pester me for a wedding date.
“Not yet, Louie, please, I have to study for the exams.”
I flunked two of the seven exams and had to retake them within six months: “Not yet, Louie.”
“Not yet, Louie, I’m not divorced.” And I didn’t want to get divorced, either. However kind and attentive Louie was, I still ached for the love and the marriage I had lost.
Then my mother entered the mix. My mother, Bryn Mawr graduate, third in her class at Law School, had moved from practicing small scale international law to matrimonial law and trust and estates. She and my stepfather had loved Randy and his upscale east side family, but in her words, “If you don’t want to be married to Randy, and I can see why and how he can be difficult, and if there is no hope for a reconciliation, which looks very unlikely from here, you must move on.
“Forget the idea of continuing on as a single parent. You aren’t built that way, Lale. You can’t stand to be alone. Anyway, you’re nobody in this society unless you are married. Profession or no profession. You have to be Mrs. Somebody!” I had heard this argument before, well before I had married Randy.
“Be grateful that you’ve found someone as presentable as Louie and get on with your divorce so you can remarry as soon as possible.”
“I’m not ready to get divorced, Ma. Please.”
“Is there a chance you and Randy will get back together?”
“Then divorce. You have to get on with your life!” She knew she was hitting home and pressed on, outlining the options. In New York State, adultery was the only grounds for divorce, but providing evidence of adultery to the court was unseemly, and a hassle. In her day, women used to go to Reno for six weeks to establish residency and then file for divorce, but that wasn’t viable for me, given my job and Vanessa. Anyway, it wasn’t even necessary anymore. “You can fly to Mexico and get a divorce in twenty-four hours. I’ll set it up for you.”
Case closed. Arguing with my mother was near impossible, especially when she was right. Within a week she had made the arrangements.
Wrapped in my cloak of sadness, I flew to El Paso, Texas with a bunch of other East Coast separation seekers, crossed the border to Juarez, and obtained a divorce. Apart from having been relieved of my treasured Mont Blanc fountain pen by the Mexican judge, the most memorable part of that experience was on the flight back, when my seatmate asked me to dinner later that week with the proviso that he would have anal sex with me as part of the evening’s entertainment.
Although divorced, I was still unready to marry Louie. I sensed that tying myself to a once homosexual man might be asking for serious trouble once the novelty of heterosexual sex and family life had worn off. I consulted a psychiatrist whom I had seen after my father died and whom I trusted. He could not endorse my plan to marry Louie. He had no evidence that such unions work unless they are marriages de convenance, which was not what I was looking for. But he said another therapist, more modern in his schooling and experience, might see the situation differently and so referred me to psychiatrist number two. Yes, number two was all for it, and all for open marriages and people of any inclination having sex with one another for any reason and in any context that pleased them at the moment. His group sessions felt as I had imagined Woodstock might have been! Although by then it was 1971, I hadn’t discovered the 60s yet and was unprepared for such openness. I was still recovering from the oppression of the 50s. I still wanted “romance,” someone to come home to at night, with whom to share my bed and my body, a partner to create physical and emotional stability for both Vanessa and for me, and to father a sibling for Vanessa. Louie wanted the same from me and was determined to have it. Whatever my misgivings, I was in too deep to back out. I caved.
We were married on 17 December 1971 at the Pulitzer House on East 73rd Street in the lavish apartment of Albert Fuller’s friend and patron, Gregory Smith. Paul Rudolph, the architect, was Louie’s witness and Annie Pfeifer, a close younger artist friend, was mine. My mother, stepfather and stepsisters came. Thankfully Louie’s mother, Amanda, declined to come up from Florida. The ceremony was performed by my mother’s law partner, Judge Millard Midonick. I had begged him to take all the forevers out of the text, to which he agreed. That Friday the cloud of sadness that still hovered over me had so darkened that I was in tears the entire afternoon, even as Vanessa and I got into our matching white knitted dresses and taxied with Annie over to East 73rd Street. The brief ceremony was followed by copious amounts of alcohol and a spectacular Chinese banquet ordered by Albert from our favorite Szechuan restaurant.
Each day of our marriage confirmed that for me, our union was a monster mistake, not because Louie was/had been gay, but because every aspect of his life—his clothes, his writing, his interaction with others (myself included), and even our sexual intimacy—was curated, studied, and tweaked to achieve a desired effect or end. More often than not, the results fell short of his expectations. Louie took little pride or pleasure in himself and his achievements as the innovative critic of contemporary architecture that he was. In shows of arrogance, he was fired from two excellent jobs in succession. He then set about writing a seminal critique of the contemporary architectural landscape in America. But even in that he experienced little pride or joy. My manners, my honesty and my outspoken irreverence often displeased him for fear of its effect on others. He soon established himself as my Pygmalion. I was to be his Galatea, the architect that he might have wanted to be himself. However, I resisted the course he set out for me. I didn’t want to be his or anyone’s Galatea. While I wasn’t stupid, nor without talent as a designer, I was a slow learner, hindered by the self-doubt resulting from being raised in the shadows of two highly accomplished parents, one largely absent, the other, very much present but at a certain distance. I had to grow in my own way, in my own time. Sexually, Louie could have taught me a lot. He was far more experienced than I, but I was dying inside. I didn’t want to learn from him. At first I had thought maybe, with time, things would loosen up and somewhere, somehow, we would find joy. I longed for a spontaneous moment, a gut-splitting laugh. I ached to be danced to the end of love with Leonard Cohen’s deep, hoarse voice singing his poetry in the background. By year two I knew it couldn’t happen, Louie being who he was.
How to get out?
Maybe if I gave him a child.
Maybe a child of his own might be my ticket to freedom.
In the late spring of 1973 we went to Washington DC to research some aspect of Louie’s book and stayed with my widowed Aunt Lis, a favorite of mine whom I rarely saw, and an enthusiastic drinker. We had a largely liquid evening. She was entranced by Louie as were most people on first meeting him. He was indeed attractive, engaging, witty and warm and he played well to an appreciative audience. I got caught up in her enthusiasm for my new husband and before bed, locked myself in the bathroom and pulled out my IUD.
Nine months later, after an easy pregnancy, our son was born. Louie was more than thrilled. I was overjoyed by this baby’s presence in my life, and glad to have provided a brother for Vanessa (she was less pleased as she was no longer star of our show). But the slow progress of my dying inside had continued. Soon not just the touch but even the sight of Louie repelled me. Three months later I persuaded Louie to return to his apartment which he had kept as an office while we were together. But I could find no way to explain to Louie that I had been gradually dying since the day I broke up with Randy, and that his need to micromanage every detail of our lives had deepened my despair. Still less could I explain my hope that the gift of a child would somehow validate his transition to straighthood and make up for my leaving him.
Over the next years Louie and I co-parented our son with great collegiality. Louie was a devoted father and remained a good friend despite the horrific pain my leaving him had caused. Louie never understood the why, why I had to leave him in order to live and breathe again. Louie never again had an open relationship although I encouraged him, begged him, to do so and with a man if that were his inclination. I would support him all the way.
In June 1988, when our son was fourteen, Louie was diagnosed with AIDS. Two months later, at age fifty-nine he died of a heart attack caused by an excessive dose of AZT which was new at the time and its efficacy was still uncertain.
Louie’s only request, about which he was adamant, was that our son should never be told that he had been gay. Two years later, our son figured it out for himself.