A WHIM

Of all my unexpected internal adventures, the following comedy is the most bizarre.

The structure of the western world in the seventies, the Trudeau times in Canada, was so porous and so wasteful that many people I knew sheltered in the interstices and got by on the leavings. I knew two young people whom I shall call Drake and Eleanor.

I had a curious relationship with Drake. His father had died when he was young, and Drake often talked about sexuality, sometimes asked me startlingly direct questions about my own sexual experience. I didn’t mind. I knew several young men at the time who had also lost their fathers when they were children and had a similar interest in the sexuality of other people. Perhaps not having grown up with a father had left unanswered questions in their minds about sexual persona. Drake was persistent, though. He tried to manoeuver me into the role of older and wiser man, almost the teacher, as though that were our natural relationship. In truth, I had nothing to teach him.

He said to me out of the blue one day, “You are attracted to Eleanor, aren’t you?” As it happened, I had never thought of Eleanor sexually. Yet the moment he said this, it became true. I was attracted to her. And it was as though I always had been. Just by saying so, he had made it so, not only true but retroactively true. Did he want it to be so? Not that it made the least difference; Eleanor was not attracted to me in the slightest.

Several years later, after we moved to Vancouver, I spent a week in Ottawa doing some research, living by myself in a hotel. One day I happened to think about Drake and on the instant I found myself possessed of a hard-on like an iron bolt. This was a perplexing and comic situation. I wanted, not to put too fine a point on it, as Dickens would say, to fuck Drake. This grotesque notion was utterly unprecedented. It was somehow associated in my mind with Drake’s mistaken view of me as some sort of sexual ‘authority.’ I say mistaken because one thing I can say with authority is that I have never been an authority on anything.

The state of arousal did not abate. As I went about my business I was constantly aware of the erotic power of this whim. After all these years of living at close quarters with my mind, I don’t think anything that comes out of it can shock me. All the same I was disconcerted and began to worry a little about ‘turning queer.’

I worried about it all the way home on the plane. I worried about it while skimming the prairies where I was born, and I worried about it as we hurtled over the rockies. I worried about it until the moment I saw my wife, actually saw her standing in the doorway, with her hair and her arms and the look of her and all. It was instantly clear that no place was reserved for me in queerdom.

All the same, there was a seeming relapse. Drake phoned later that summer that he was coming to visit, could I fetch him from the airport? As I parked and walked into the terminal to meet the flight my heart began to pound. And it pounded until I saw Drake, not the idea of Drake but Drake himself, with his nose and his stance and his rucksack. The farce fell apart in a snort of laughter.

So, reader, what the devil was all that about? What do you make of it, with your study of Freud’s ‘slow return of the repressed,’ your handiness with semiotics, your long acquaintance with text and sub-text? Tell me what you think.

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