Old acquaintances

The monthly LGBT bookclub was the busiest it’s ever been last week, due in large part to the author of the book we’d just read showing up to talk about it. I already knew the author, had known him for quite a long time, through a mutual friend that I used to live with. I’ve seen him go in and out of AA meetings for years, I’ve seen the problems that he’s written about in the book. The book has its detractors – in it he’s very open about his experience of AA and not everyone is comfortable with that openness. I think it’s an important book, shining a light on the mental health crisis in the gay community that not many are willing to talk about, even now. The book club, which was much more of an event than it usually is due to the extra attendees, was important too – for bringing so many of us together, for giving us the space to talk. There was a lively and inclusive discussion, and I realised that this is what the gay scene is missing, what it’s maybe always missed. This is what a gay community is, not a gathering of strangers in a bar getting drunk.

Once again I had cause to be reminded of how lucky I am to have AA meetings. I didn’t out myself as a recovering alcoholic at the event – there was barely opportunity for me to say anything, so many others wanted to get in and speak. The author was more than happy to out himself, again and again, and he hit the nail on the head when it comes to AA, another place where LGBT’s can gather and bond without recourse to any mind altering substance. I felt like I knew him better than anyone there that night, for this reason. We do share something that most other people don’t. Having known him over the years and seen him achieve this success, it was tempting to call what I felt on Thursday pride, but maybe I don’t know him well enough to say that’s what I feel. I’m certainly glad for him, and I hope he continues doing what he’s doing.

Last night I met up with my aunt Emily, for the first time in two or three years. She’d been occupied most of that time looking after her sister, whose health was steadily deteriorating until she passed away in the winter. Now that affairs have been taken care of it appears Emily has more free time on her hands, and we met near my work because it was convenient for both of us. It was good to see her of course, but at first I think there was some slight awkwardness, given how long it had been. We could only do small talk for the first half hour or so, sticking to safe subjects like work and holidays. Then she broached the subject of family, and soon it was just like old times again, as we chatted honestly about things that had happened and how we felt about them. I never thought of Emily as an outsider to the family like me, but when we talk about old wounds and the things our relatives could have done better, she really seems to understand things from that perspective. It’s not that either of us still holds grudges towards any member of the family for the many mistakes made, but we both clearly see where things have gone wrong. Emily is the only member of the family I could ever be honest with when it came to my father and his mistakes. She gets the hurt that he caused me, she always got it. I put all that behind me long ago, but even now I don’t exactly have a great relationship with my father – I just never see him. I can tell Emily that it’s because I don’t know how to approach him, what to say, and she can tell me that he has the same problem.

On saying goodbye last night she suggested coffee again in a couple of months, which I think will work out well. I’d like to see her more regularly. Those conversations are so important for me, so freeing. Perhaps they are for her too.

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