The dining hall at Williams College's dormitory, Mission Park, whose name is associated with the birth of U.S. foreign Christian missions. Located on Mission Park Drive, the Haystack Monument marks the site where five Williams students sought shelter from lightning in 1806 and were struck by the impulse to found the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). In 1896, the organization galvanized U.S. opposition to the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, reported The New York Times (November 10, 1896).
The American Missionary Association, founded in 1846 by members of the ABCFM and other missionary societies, was dedicated to the abolition of slavery, promotion of racial equality and the education of African Americans. It chartered, and it supported many black colleges and universities, including Howard University. (Photo by Lisa Porter)
It was the vein in your forehead that beckoned me. It bulged and throbbed whenever you became excited, happy or mad. Because you were a passionate man, it often revealed itself.
It was your eyes, dark and intense, that riveted me. When you left a room, your stare stayed behind and bore into my dreams, day and night.
It was your feet, long and muscular, which stalked me until they entwined with mine.
I found such comfort waking up with you in the mornings. I would grope for you under the covers and kiss you in the mouth. We would make love, and I would not want to let you out. Gently, you would pull away. We would start our day already longing to smell each other again.
When we first met at Williams College, I had resisted your magnetism. I was wary of taking another lover and risking more heartache. We were platonic, I had said finally, while my resolve quivered my insides. I was all mixed up. You had honored my decision and outwaited, with deliberation, my change of mind.
We brought up many a day’s sun in our dormitory rooms in Pratt House, one of four houses in Mission Park, revealing ourselves to each other in conversations about politics, art and law. The Black Movement, photography and writing. Watergate, James Van Der Zee and Zora Neale Hurston. The Arab oil embargo, Alfred Stieglitz and Tennessee Williams. Revolution, your eye and my hands. Our souls.
I remember the night you told me that you were going to be a lawyer and fight for those cheated out of a fair deal. The conviction behind your words shook the walls; the room was not large enough to hold it. I mumbled that law was a serious consideration for me. I spoke from my head, not my heart. I was not ready to shout out my truth, much less live it. You kept pushing me to be myself. Your earnestness frightened me. When I felt vulnerable to your power, I told you, “I am in love,” believing the words if not the sentiment. “Who,” you asked. I refused to say. You kept probing. Finally, weeks later, I gave you the name. “He doesn’t know?” You were astounded. “Tell him,” you urged. “Tell him. What can come of it if he doesn’t know?”
I reluctantly agreed. So, with a poem I had written a year earlier and sweet thoughts spoken in the present. I visited him in the bustle of Manhattan. I was neither surprised nor disappointed when he said, “I like you, but I don’t love you.” Because of your prodding, my tattered romantic fantasy had been ripped apart and turned into dust. You had crumbled another obstacle between us. When I returned to forlorn Williamstown in the Berkshire Mountains and gave you the news, your brow furrowed with compassion. You wanted to console me, and I was touched deeply. You drove me in Baby Blue to a movie theater in North Adams to see Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. You had seen and liked the film about an aspiring singer who had mined the courage to pursue her art, and you thought that I might be inspired by it.
“Write,” you kept saying. “Write.”
I shrank back from your clarity. I shrank back from my calling. I shrank back from myself.
All my nineteen years, I had kept myself hidden well. My invisibility protected me, I thought. I was my own fort guarded by my daydreams and secret poems, living in my thorny peace. Your insights pricked me.
We spent as much time as we could together. You were a hunger I could not deny myself. One snowless night, we had fallen asleep on the carpeted floor of your room in Mission Park. You had awakened while I slept and covered us with a warm, thick blanket. The next morning, we woke up refreshed and shining anew. A panoramic view of a big tumble of snow smiled back at us through your tall, wide windows. As we gazed out, awed into stillness by the spectacle, you asked me whether I knew that, during the night, I had snuggled up to you and held on tight. I blushed as I told you that I had not realized it. Playfully, uselessly, I accused you of stretching the truth. You assured me that you could not loosen my grip, it was so tight. I knew you were not lying. The night’s revelation chased away my confusion. My feelings for you were deep and very unplatonic. I could rationalize all I wanted in my waking hours but, when I slept, the truth slipped out unabashedly and wrapped itself around you. Gracefully, after more time and with a shared gravity, we became lovers in bed after making love thousands of times out of it.
You were loved. I believed in you. My faith suckled and weaned you. Although you came to me a man, you needed my wings for shelter.
Our souls were old ones. We howled across hundreds of years, shouted over mountains of time to this life, where we met for the first time. We heard and answered each other.
Yes, I let you see me. Yes, I said yes to you. Yes, oh yes, my yes. Sweet yes.
How could I tell you that we were in trouble?