FREE Gay Non-Fiction; The Naked Tenant; A Memoir by Ryan Field
A few months ago I posted about our big move and how traumatic it was for us both. Here’s a link to that post. I don’t want to get into it here. Those who have been following me on this website since around 2008 know how much Tony and I loved our home. I was constantly posting about our lives and our projects, with photos. It was a very special place, but we’ve moved forward and we’re living totally different lives now.
And I’ve written a memoir about that time in our lives. It covers a period of 18 years. From the time we bought our home to the time we sold it a few months ago. I’ve already posted something here about the memoir and I wanted to post something else. Right now I’m shopping it around to agents to see if anyone is interested. I don’t want to indie publish it myself. I always just thought that was too self-indulgent. But I haven’t decided anything yet.
At least I can post excerpts here, though. This is chapter 13 where I’m interviewing a tenant. I used to post short things about our tenants on Facebook all the time. Tony and I had a legal rental apartment over the garage and we kept it rented out the entire time we lived there. In fact, I’m still in contact with our most recent tenant, a wonderful, talented guy named Ryan. He’s just wonderful, and he was the dream tenant. And as you can see from the excerpt below, not all tenants are perfect…lol
Tony and I met in 1992 and everything was very different for gay couples in those days. There wasn’t even a hint of legalized same-sex marriage, most couples were still in the closet, and most of us remained at a safe distance from our families. It was a different kind of self-imposed social distancing. Tony and I were out of the closet in some respects, but not in others.
Tony worked for corporate America and he was not out at work or with his family. I was out at work because I was submitting gay stories to gay publishing houses like Alyson Books, and I was running the businesses and everyone knew I was gay there. Everyone in our personal circles knew Tony and I were a couple. But when it came to the family we never told anyone we were a couple. We never said anything. We just distanced ourselves from our families. Both of our families lived within an hour’s driving distance so we saw them often and talked with them often. It really was more like our own private don’t as don’t tell arrangement.
I had one advantage that Tony didn’t have. I have a gay brother that I found out about one night by accident when we bumped into each other in a gay nightclub in New Hope. Imagine the magnitude of that alone: you have a gay brother but don’t even know it until you find out by accident. I also have another brother and a sister but back then they had no idea they had two gay brothers. We just kept that secret to ourselves and never mentioned it to anyone else. No one at all in Tony’s family knew he was gay, and he has 4 sisters and 2 brothers. The most interesting thing is that no one ever questioned it either, not in my family or Tony’s family.
For the first 10 years we were together, Tony and I never spent a holiday together as a couple. On Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, we each went to our own family and spent the entire day with them. At the time, it really was just easier on both of us. We would celebrate Christmas Eve together, with our gay friends. And every Thanksgiving we would leave our families and meet up at another gay friend’s house for a late dinner. It was a way of life.
All this worked fine for us until the fall of 2001. Tony’s mom was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and she was gone by the spring of 2002. I supported him completely, but only in the background and always from a distance. I didn’t even go to her funeral because I didn’t want anyone in Tony’s family to focus on me instead of the sad events of the day.
But his mother’s death changed me. After that I decided I would not do the same thing with my family, especially not with my mother. A few weeks after Tony’s mother was buried, I invited my mother and father to our townhouse for dinner with both of us. I didn’t go into any great details about being a gay couple, and there was never a coming out conversation. We simply invited my parents into our home to see how we lived, where we lived, and to introduce them to our lives. And my parents never asked a single question.
Oh, they knew we were gay. They were both professional psychologists. My mom came with a cake from a good bakery and a house gift for the two of us. She brought us a Baby George Grill that I kept and used for years. She would have done the same if she’d been invited to my sister and brother-in-law’s, which was yet another sign that she knew exactly what she was doing and where she was going. It was a good night, too. Both my mother and father loved Tony and it was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with Tony that would last for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, Tony’s mom missed everything about our lives. She never saw the townhouses or the new house on Street Rd. And it would take years for Tony’s dad to finally meet me, and under some of the worst circumstances imaginable. Tony had no interest in coming out to his dad, or even introducing me to him, and I had decided a long time ago not to push that with Tony. I knew that he would have to come to that conclusion on his own.
Moving to the house on Street Road changed our lives in a huge way once again. Not only was Tony’s mother no longer around, my business in New Hope had begun to flounder and the tanning Salon in Lambertville was starting to work on my nerves. I wanted to go back into publishing full time and I wanted to sell the Tanning Salon. I couldn’t sell the gallery in New Hope because I was the business. The best I could do there would be to close it down. And after 10 years, even though they had been wonderful years, I was ready to let it go.
So while I wasn’t certain how I would get back into publishing full time, I started looking around on the Internet for opportunities, and I also had to get that apartment over the garage occupied with a good, paying tenant. Tony and I had been renting commercial space for a while by then, but we’d never actually been landlords. To say we were cautious would have been the understatement of the century.
Tony was busy working full time in corporate, plus traveling to another city every single week, so getting the apartment rented became my responsibility. At the time, Craigslist was just beginning to get popular so I put up an advertisement for the apartment there hoping I would get a few replies. I learned quickly that one thing I would never have to worry about again was finding people who were interested in renting a small studio apartment in New Hope. I received over 100 responses the first day alone.
The problem was finding someone I felt comfortable with living on my property. This wasn’t a rental property for me on the other side of town. This person would be living on my property right next to my house. And even though there was a lot of privacy and the house wasn’t too close to the apartment, I wanted to feel comfortable with whoever decided to rent it. But even more important, I wanted them to feel comfortable with me. I wasn’t taking this lightly. I realized that we were not just renting out a space to get money. We were offering someone housing and shelter, which was one of the most important things in life. I wanted to be fair.
I figured out a system where I would correspond with prospective tenants through e-mail at first. I learned quickly that there are people out there who will respond to ads on Craigslist and have no intention of following through. They either did this out of boredom, or just for sport to waste someone’s time. Whenever someone didn’t want to e-mail with me at first I took that as an automatic red flag and I stopped interacting with them. It wasn’t until I felt totally comfortable with someone through e-mail that I would give them a phone number.
That first year at Street Road I remember there was one really nice guy named Michael who was interested in the apartment and we had been e-mailing each other about it for almost a week. I was still at the point of setting up showings and interviews with possible tenants so I gave him my phone number and we set up a time and date for him to meet me at the apartment. Tony was in Buffalo, NY that week on business and I was interviewing people alone. I would have preferred to have Tony there with me to help make the decision, but we simply couldn’t afford to wait for him to have time off.
I set up an appointment to meet Michael at the apartment on a Tuesday evening at 7 o’clock. This was only a few weeks before Christmas and it was already dark outside. I learned something else that night about the house on Street Road. Anyone who ever came there for the first time missed the driveway. In all fairness, the driveway was hidden and the house and garage were set way back from the road. Unless you were actually looking, it was not hard to miss. This was also before people started using GPS and we were all still giving out directions. I was standing in front of the garage waiting for Michael when I saw a small black car slowly pass the driveway entrance and stop at the house down the road.
Of course, the house down the road was more than 4 acres away. Michael turned around and called me from his cell phone. We were all using cell phones by that time and that made life easier. I told Michael I was looking right at him in the driveway next door and that all he had to do was make a left out of the driveway and he would see me standing there waving.
A few minutes later, a nice-looking young man with dark hair climbed out of the small black car and walked over the shake my hand. While we made introductions, I noticed that he was wearing those tight black compression shorts that cyclists wear. And he must have noticed that I was looking and he smiled and said, “I apologize for the way I look. I just came from the gym. I hope it’s okay.”
I laughed. “Oh, it’s fine. Don’t give it a second thought. I run 4 miles every morning and I work out every night myself.” Although I did have to admit that it was a bit obnoxious. These black compression shorts were so tight I could see the outline of his penis bulging through the fabric.
After I showed Michael where is personal parking space was, he followed me to the back and up the deck stairs into the apartment. I switched on the lights and I let him walk inside first. He stepped into the kitchen area and glanced around with a smile. “I love this. The appliances look new, and I love how the paint is all so fresh and white.”
I explained to him that we’d recently lived up there ourselves and that we’d done this renovation based on personal experiences. “We just asked ourselves what we would need to live in an apartment like this comfortably. And that’s what we did.”
“Well, you did a wonderful job,” Michael said. “I love it all.” He pointed to a small island between the kitchen and the main living area. “Do those barstools come with the place?”
I nodded. “Yes, they are included. We bought them so we would have something to sit on and we decided to leave them up here for a tenant.”
“Well that’s excellent,” he said. “Hey man, do you mind if I use the bathroom?”
“Of course not,” I said. I pointed to the other side of the kitchen said. “It’s right over there. We just did a full remodel in there, too, and you can check that out for yourself.”
While he was in the bathroom, I walked over to the counter and sat down on one of the stools. A few minutes later, I heard the water running and then I saw the door slowly open. The instant he walked out of the bathroom my eyes opened wide and I gripped the seat of the barstool with both hands. He was walking toward me now, stark naked, with a great big smile on his face.
“Michael, what on earth are you doing?” I asked. I jumped off the barstool and moved over to the large picture window. I focused hard on looking up toward the ceiling.
He stood in the middle of the apartment, on the brand new brown carpet, with his arms, spread out and said, “I think you’re really cute.”
I laughed. I hadn’t seen this one coming. “Well I think you should get dressed.”
“Oh stop,” he said. “Let’s have some fun. Take off your clothes and I’ll come sit on your lap, cutie.”
“Michael, seriously, get dressed. This isn’t going to happen. I’ll wait for you downstairs.”
I’d been in similar situations before with gay men and I knew there was nothing to worry about. He was adorable and I didn’t feel the least bit unsafe. There was no need to call the police and I knew there was nothing dangerous about him. I was not going to be traumatized because I’d seen his penis. If I’d been single and he’d done this I probably would have taken off my own clothes. But I wasn’t single and I wasn’t interested in a one-night stand with a stranger. I needed a good serious tenant in that apartment and I was not about to cross any lines in the process. But more than that, I was at that point in my life where the only thing that mattered was moving forward with my husband and my home.
Sweet naked Michael left that night and I never heard from him again, and I went right back to interviewing possible tenants the very next morning. I had been interviewing a nice young woman who claimed to be a college professor at a small college on Long Island. She only wanted to rent the apartment for six months instead of a full year, but I didn’t mind that. She sounded nice enough and at that point I just wanted to get the place rented before January 1. I had no idea that she would turn out to be even more unusual than Michael, the naked guy with the great big smile, and she didn’t even bother to remove her clothes.