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June 9, 2003 - 10:59 p.m.

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Last Five Entries:
The Party's Over
July 11, 2004
The Next Day
My Nervous Breakdown
True Confessions: My Life as a Female Impersonator
March 15, 2004
Bite Me
February 29, 2004



On Saturday night, I had dinner with two of my friends from high school. The night was most notable, however, for who didn't show up.

Originally, four of us were going to get together. Elwood (who has a mention in a previous entry), and two others, let's call them Jake, and Ty Webb. Jake and Ty have one thing in common, besides the fact that we were all high school friends, in that I've seen both of them make significant conversions.

Ty was something of a ladies' man, not so much in high school, but he did really well in college. We were all held in awe by the string of attractive girlfriends he had. Of course, part of the awe was due to the fact that none of the rest of us were having a lot of success on the romantic front on college. Ty's prowess grew to the point that Jake compared Ty's romantic skills to those of the legendary Shaft. Beyond Ty's living the masculine ideal, he was also a smart guy, a reliable friend, and ended up making a lot of money doing computer stuff (starting in the early nineties, right before everyone became a computer person).

When I was finishing law school, I found myself without a clear job prospect in a market that, at the time, was bad for lawyers, especially new ones. With no money and an uncertain future, I feared that I might be facing homelessness. I called on my friend Ty, who had his own apartment (a big deal at the time), to ask him if he could put me up for a few months while I nailed down my first legal job. Ty said he'd talk to me about it, and suggested that we talk over dinner (he was buying, a big deal to me back then).

So we met for dinner at Outback, and we caught up with each other and all that. And then he told me the big secret. "You probably have already figured this out," he said, "but I'm gay."

I explained to him, "No, I hadn't figured it out. As a matter of fact, weren't you dating" so-and-so. Apparently, I don't have gaydar. So he told me about how he had his first inkling of being gay when he was about twelve, watching porn movies (he found himself more interested in looking at the men). He tried to deny it, and his string of girlfriends in college was an attempt to convince himself that he wasn't gay. But he wasn't happy, and he finally came to terms with it.

By that time in my life, I was a fairly open-minded guy. I told him, "It dosen't bother me that you're gay at all. And thank you for telling me before we talked about whether I could stay with you. But you're being gay wouldn't bother me for just staying with you for a while."

Then he told me, "You don't understand. I can't have you hanging around my apartment when I bring a guy home." And thus, Ty denied the favor of letting me stay with him.

However, Ty wasn't coming out of the closet. Of our gruop of friends from high school, who had been keeping in touch, I was actually the only one he told. He wasn't even telling his family. He had a circle of gay friends, and kept them separate from his circle of not-gay friends. Eventually, he was hanging out with his gay friends so much he didn't have time to hang out with the rest of us.

On the few occasions in that period where we would see Ty, there were a some uncomfortable moments. My high school friends and I often regress to our high school mentality when we get together, which normally is something we find fun. But, like many teenage boys, we had a lot of homophobia back then. So when Jake or Elwood or someone else would make a joke derogatory of homosexuals, I would cringe (Ty could force a laugh).

About three years ago, Ty moved in with a steady boyfriend, and none of us heard him since. We didnt' have his new phone number, and he didn't answer e-mail.

Jake had a different sort of conversion. His was religious. After high school, Jake went through a rapid-fire switching from one religion to the other. I don't remember what all of them were, but they got progressively more strict. He went through a few Protestant sects, then jumped on the Mormon bandwagon, but that didn't work for him either. When the Mormons didn't work for him, he jumped to Islam. That was about seven or eight years ago.

Islam apparently suited him, because he stuck with it. He got a new Muslim name (let's call it Muhammad Ali- but he let's his non-Muslim friends still call him Jake). He developed a circle of Muslim friends in college (he's a career student). Of course, he started hanging out more with his Muslim friends, and not as much with the rest of us. Finally, he got married through an arranged marriage. His wife forbid him from having any contact whatsoever with his non-Muslim friends from high school.

We have occasionally seen Jake since his marriage. Many times, he's agreed to get together with us, and has simply not shown up because he was unable to sneak out on his wife. Occasionally, however, he'd make it around. Several times we'd give up on him, but he'd contact us through e-mail, so we'd give him another chance. His wife continues to forbid him to associate with us.

Recently, the stars aligned. Near the end of last year, Ty gave me a call after none of us had heard from him in at least two years. He caught me up on his life, and the main news seemed to be that he'd just broken up with his boyfriend. My guess is that Ty broke of contact with us because associating us would put him in an uncomfortable position- either telling his boyfriend that he'd be hiding his boyfriend from us, or telling us that he had a boyfriend. Now that Ty had broken up with is boyfriend, that problem no longer existed. Anyway, out of the call, I got Ty's e-mail address. (Checking my old e-mail addresses, I had it two years ago when he wasn't answering e-mail- it was in fact a question of him ignoring the e-mail and not a question of not having his current e-mail address.)

A few months ago, a sent an e-mail to a lot of my old high school friends, with a short short story I had written. My story awoke Jake, who suggested that we get together for dinner since we hadn't seen each other forever- especially Ty, whom none of us had seen in longer than forever.

So, eventually, Elwood, Jake, Ty and I coordinated our schedules and agreed to get together for dinner. Elwood and I were both probably betting that Jake would be the one to pull out at the last minute (as he had in the past). Quite suspiciously, he'd asked me to pick up up from work (5:30 pm on a Saturday) and return him that night to work. It was obvious to me that his wife would be thinking that he was working.

However, Saturday morning, it was Ty who sent an e-mail to let us know he couldn't make it. He said he was sick. It's possible that he really was sick, but I'm not sure. My suspicion is that if anything is making him sick, it's keeping a secret from Jake and Elwood.

Regardless, Jake, Elwood, and I had a good time last night. Jake did in fact confirm that his wife thought he was working late on a weekend. I also found interesting that the F.B.I. called him in for an interview and investigation because he's Muslim. I find it disturbing that the government is investigating people based on their religion. That sounds like religious persecution to me (remember, one of the reasons the U.S. is supposed to be great is that the government doesn't interfere with citizens' practice of religion). Jake, by the way, is a pacifist if I've ever known one in my life. He does have one mark on his criminal record (vandalism while he was in college- just like hundreds of college boys of all races and creeds at his college- and his criminal record was aquired quite a few years before he converted to Islam).

Or perhaps the F.B.I. heard about the stunt that Jake pulled in Spanish class one year in high school. Our Spanish teacher gave us an assignment in which we'd be writing our own skits to perform in Spanish. Jake was a terrorist in his. (Back then, Muslims weren't stereotyped as terrorists- he was playing a stereotype of a Columbian terrorist.) As a prop, he brought in flares. Someone saw him taking the flares out of his car the morning of his skit, and apparently mistook them for dynamite. It turned into quite an event as he was detained by the principal for hours, questioned about his motives in blowing up the school while officials searched his car and investigated his "dynamite."

Yes, he was implicated in his first and only act of terrorism ten years before he became a Muslim.

The fact that the F.B.I. is investigating him is kind of scary, because if you've been following the news (and you have to read deep), the various government investigatory agencies have been harassing and denying due process to American Muslims generally, holding them indefinitely without charges, and so forth. So, my friend Jake could be a target. That's disturbing.

He has a good sense of humor about it. I gave him a pack of those 55-Most-Wanted-Iraqis playing cards, and he quipped, "I hope I'm not in here."

As it turns out, he's not.

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