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BEING CONTINUED: Birthday Present
by AK Miller

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I've not packed for a big trip in years. The last one was to New York for my 60th birthday, and that was forever ago. And I've not been to Palm Springs in decades, so I'm not sure what I should wear. What do men of my age wear to lounge around the pool? Certainly not the Speedos I'd wear when I went to California in my youth. You laugh, but I was young and beautiful just like you once. I swear. Here, look at this picture. See? I was quite the striking young man, once upon a time, wasn't I? Our muscles were different then. Less manufactured looking, manlier. That's Michael next to me. He had been my lover for four years when that was taken. You would have thought we were the first to men to love each other, the way we acted. We were really something. I lost him when I was drafted for the Vietnam War. Our goodbye was such a heart-wrenching scene. Deborah Kerr had nothing on Michael. He was in college at the time and got to stay here. He wrote to me while I was overseas, but we moved around so much that we rarely got mail and I'm certain gay love letters were often lost first. He had graduated by the time I got back and I couldn't find him. I tried though. I called every Michael T. Smith in every major metropolitan telephone directory I could find. There must have been thousands. We weren't able to reach into our pockets and find each other by pushing buttons like you can today. He had a lovely sister, but I'm sure she got married and her last name was lost, even if she did stay in Chicago. For the first few years after I got home I would walk into a room and look around for him wherever I went. I was filled with anticipation and hope almost every time I turned a corner. I figured eventually, if it was meant to be, we would find each other. Time passed and I realized that we probably never would. He wanted to become a doctor and I think that's what he went off to do. Study more or study abroad. I don't know. I don't even know if he lived through the '80s, but I always hoped he ended up somewhere safe and happy. I fell in love again—many times—but never quite got over my first love. I don't think anyone really does. You may love someone more, but never quite the same. Thank you for looking for him on those websites you kids use to stalk each other incessantly. I appreciate your trying, I do, but I think my way may be the right way. Michael and I only visited Palm Springs once. We joked, even then, that we were far too young for that town and agreed that we wouldn't come back until we were seventy. Since it's my 70th birthday, and that hotel is still standing, I'm off. Now don't worry, I'm not setting myself up for heartbreak. I know the chance of him being there, let alone remembering it's my birthday, is very slim, but I won't be alone. I'll be surrounded by men my age so I don't need a youngster like you cramping my style. Of course I hope he will be there waiting. What single man doesn't hope the love of his life will be waiting for him right around the next corner?

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