A new place, larger and more comfortable than where we started, and also in a really nice area of town; Charley had made a good move. This would be a pleasant place to come to once a week – maybe there’d even be a fire in the fireplace one winter afternoon. As he sat patiently in his chair and waited for me to tell where I might like to go in our conversation that day, I looked out the window from my spot on the couch and saw a flagpole with an American flag flying in the breeze. Something nice to gaze at occasionally, especially when I felt stuck and didn’t know what to say, as I frequently felt those days. After all, the reason I came to Charley in the first place was because I felt stuck in many ways: now that I had come out to myself and my loved ones as a gay man, what did that mean? How was I going to meet people, much less pursue and handle a possible relationship with a man? What do I want? Look out the window, there’s the flag, something nice to look at.
The flag had as many moods as I brought into the room. Sometimes it would be flying proudly in the wind, sometimes not even a breeze would stir it from where it hung. On certain days I’d sail into the room fairly bursting to share a success or a bright spot in the week, sometimes Id walk in feeling lucky I had found the motivation to drive to my appointment. On stormy days the flag would snap and beat against the wind; I’d rail and bite against injustices in my world. Some days the sun would illuminate the flag against a beautiful blue sky. When I found my first boyfriend in a wonderful chance meeting, there wasn’t a cloud in my sky. And when the relationship died, I felt like the fabric of me would fall apart. Through it all, Charley was patient, gentle, supportive, challenging; in that room I could be myself, say the things I could never admit or say to my friends, even allow substance to the tears that were flowing in my heart. I started trying new things; taking chances, pushing my comfort level, expressing how I felt to those I love, rethinking my stories in a new light. I survived my breakup, and even came to see that not only had I not done anything wrong, but all I had learned about myself in the relationship was worth the experience. In my search to find out what being a gay man meant to me, I took a chance on joining a gay men’s choir and found a place where every part of me is welcomed and valued. And when I looked out the office window at the flag, it stopped being an escape from being stuck, and became more a beautiful thing that was just there, OK and beautiful, in all of its varied moods.
The last time I visited the office, I went with the realization that my reasons for working with Charley and the goals we had established had changed and, in many case, been fulfilled. I walked into Charley’s friendly greeting and immediately noticed something I had never heard before: a rather loud ringing tone that permeated the whole space. I had no idea what it could be, until Charley explained that the ringing was created by the blustery winds outside shooting through the hollow tube of the flagpole. I looked out the window and saw the flag snapping proudly in the wind, and recognized that this was the first time I had heard my friend outside speak. It was a nice sound, but it was also very present, and would not be casually ignored.
I realized in that moment, after a year and a half of time spent together, that the flag and I had both found a new voice. In the days to come, the flag would have times of flying proudly and times when it wouldn’t be able to stir; I’d have days of triumph and periods of despair. Some days the flag would be battered by storms; some days I might need and want to return to this room to have Charley help me see a different way to write whatever story was my life was composing at the moment. But through it all, there is a truth is constant, exciting and wonderful: the flagpole has a voice that is loud, clear and beautiful. With the help and support I found in that room, I too have been able to find a new voice to help me sing my song and write the stories of my life.
Thank you for helping me find my voice.