July is the month we say goodbye to writers who are retiring or moving on to new adventures, and this is Gabe’s last post. He has been writing with us since August 2014.


I did not write the coming out post. I intended to every June for the past six years. But I didn’t punch into prose the burdened walk up the white staircase on Rossman Street to find my friend and usher out those two hushed words. I didn’t publish it when I was twenty-four and it would have been a brave declaration. Or when I was twenty-six and it would have been a brooding analysis of what coming out really means. Or last month, when I was twenty-nine and it would have been a celebration of the queer friendships that have transformed my life. I cannot tour the sunlit paragraphs of that post like a house I used to inhabit and cannot run my eyes over the carved bannisters of words and cannot exhale to say, “Yes, this is how it felt.”
 

### 

I wrote the post about my OCD. I, who used to lie in bed and tell the clock that no quantity of tocks could ever dislodge my secrets, bore my ticks and neuroses in line after careful line: a painstaking itinerary of confessions and compulsions. Before, I never understood people who labeled themselves as open books, but today I find glory (glory, hallelujah) in the close readership of friends.

 ###

 I did not move to New York City. The heat is so heavy there in July. The whole city shimmers with hot dog stands and taxi tailpipes gushing smoke like hydrothermal vents, and I don’t slip into a pair of blue board shorts and take the N to the 2 to 72nd Street station. I don’t detour for a chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery before laying out at the pier beside friends and listening through car horns and stampedes of people for the cool current of the Hudson humming beneath me. Nor do I grab a denim jacket on my way out the door to the drag show at Hardware. The modest elm in the North Woods of Central Park has never felt the press of my shoulder blades as I write a play based on a Frank O’Hara poem that I will keep hidden in a matchbox desk drawer in my shoebox apartment. I will never be a young artist living in New York.

###

I find it difficult to get too upset with the Fremont Bridge when it becomes vertical before me, prioritizing the white glissade of sailboats and churlish chug of tugboats over my punctuality. It’s a distinctly Seattle inconvenience, and for that, I am still charmed by it. At sunset I walk from my apartment to the Elliott Bay trail and watch ferries criss-cross the Sound while Rainier glows purple and majestic to the south. And all throughout the day, I sit on my couch and watch headlights hem the coast of West Seattle with filaments that iridesce like bioluminescence.

But best of all, I hop the fence to Garfield High School’s track every Thursday evening and circuit the red oval past a youth track team flickering over hurdles and soccer players tilling the AstroTurf with their cleats and my teammates orbiting along with me, wreathed in rings of sweat, making years of this evening. After we finish, we drift to a picnic table at the park and break pad thai together until the air becomes chill and blue.

###

I did not attend graduate school. I did not read The Charioteer with my spine against the ivy of buildings that have incubated great minds. I did not raise my hand to say that what Mary Renault meant is that it is wearying to try to know ourselves. My classmates did not invite me to grab pho after the midterm, and I never read enough James Baldwin to pass it anyway. The golden tassel did not dance against my left cheek.

###

I crinkle back the gold foil on an ice-cold Modelo in the wood-paneled, green-carpeted Travel Center where I spend my days laughing and researching Europe behind a counter. The maps and guidebooks have been pushed to the perimeter, and the space grows thick with Slavic accents and lustrous Italian locks. It is our annual Guide Summit in which our tour guides from across Europe and North America annually converge on a Washington January, gathering like votive candles in the dark nave of winter.

I chat with my coworkers, who I spend my days ruffling through guidebooks and equipping travelers and eating croissants and macarons alongside. Then I quiz a young Sicilian studying European history about his flag. And reminisce with a Swiss friend about the balmy night we shared sipping spritzes on St. Mark’s Square. And make the acquaintance of a Swedish mother and daughter who have overridden tradition and engineered their last names to be matrilineal. I look around the cloud of adventurers swirling in the room and try to wrap my head around the wonders they’ve witnessed between them.

How did I open my door to find the world on my doorstep? 

 ###

I didn’t go on the date. I was twenty-three and barely out, and I decided I wasn’t ready. I also decided I wasn’t ready to let the possibility go. For weeks, I imagined us walking along the red brick roads of Eastown or popping open take-out containers at Collins Park with Reed’s Lake rippled like a picnic blanket before us. I harbored the conjectured bristle of his ruddy stubble against my cheek, and when I learned he had moved to be among the red bricks of Boston, an imaginary part of me mourned all the memories we did not make. 

###

 I push my fingers through his hair even though it’s thick with salt after the workout. I cut this hair amid the literal May flowers on his back patio while Carly Rae Jepsen named every strain of love and longing. Tonight I will pick rosemary from the bush across the street, and he will watch the focaccia rise and cool like magma forging a new island, and I will hold the weight of his head on my sternum, and he will roll his eyes at my puns. We will lie, content to let the rush of cars outside my open window erode us and the billowing wind sprinkle grains of us among the rosemary bushes.

### 

I know I have talents, but I wish I had more skills. I run, I write, I sing—all things that the majority of those in my world can do to some extent. What a wonder it would be to pull off skills others can only imagine: to fly around the pommel horse or unspool a harmony on the harp or snap a perfect pas sissone en trenue during a ballet dress rehearsal! I picture what my body has not become—commanding arms, a booming chest, and hydraulic thighs—and feel a pang knowing there are occasions to which my body will never rise.

### 

I feel the water and mud and horse shit fly off the bottoms of my feet and confetti my hamstrings and shoulder blades. A few flecks even anoint my head. The sunlight has escaped the trees, and I’m left to push my way through the pivoting trails and thick, mineral scent of soil with just the gossamer light of my head lamp.

My teammates and I are competing in the Bridle Trails relay, which annually converts miles of horse-riding trails into a dirty derby of footloose runners. By the end of my five-mile leg, night has nearly swallowed dusk, and my heart beats hot against the cold air breaking over my thinly veiled chest. I can hear distant cheers and charge down the final hill to hand off to Ryan with a final, emptying sprint.

When the clouds of my breath diminish, I look at my aerodynamic arms threaded with blue veins and indomitable thighs stuccoed with earth. Then I look around at the iron-willed, big-hearted people coruscating around me in reflective vests, and I marvel at the beauty of a body that allows me to do something so simple.

 ###

And here at the end of the chapter, I know myself a fraction more. I know that my imaginings will always gravitate down roads not taken. I will let them wander a while, peeling back the bark of people I’ve never met and echoing past the stalactites of histories I’ve never studied, but I will try to call out and summon them home before they get too far.

And here at the end of the chapter, I fear figs and forks a fraction less. The page is somehow lighter now that it’s covered in ink. I will turn it soon, and on the next one I will write:

 

Once I found a sapphire lake in Stockholm only after choosing between so many forks in the trail. Once I wore a lanyard that said “Gander” and discussed sex over s’mores with my campers. Once I ran to the yacht club and back in Indianapolis. Once I drove across Wyoming and did not die. Once I finished a marathon in front of the Arc de Triomphe. Once I slid like a penguin down a water slide beside my French host sister until I almost broke a rib. Once, twice I hiked through the Eastern Washington desert alongside old friends and plunged into an ancient lake. Once I witnessed my nana’s funeral and once my sister’s wedding. Once I slithered through Connecticut on a train to the Boston Marathon and envisioned myself a Pollock painting. Once, twice, a dozen times I cut across our country, tracing asphalt to open homes and open arms. Once I sat in an Atlanta barbershop and read gay erotica beside new friends. Once I sipped whisky alone beside a fire I built. Once I entered Seattle on the Alaskan Viaduct Way. Once I stood face to face with a goatsphynx and once spat saltwater out my car window and once caramelized a shallot while wearing a cerulean sweater. Once, twice, a hundred times I wrote records of it all, and now I will never be able to leave the way I came.

Instead, I will live and write onward. 

But I will often retrace the roads and words I’ve taken and exhale, exultant.

Yes, this is how it felt.

21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Oh sigh. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for it all, Gabe.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Thank you, Deb!

      My writing would not be what it is without you…and most times that I finish a piece I still want to send it to you for revision to hear what more I should prune!

      Reply
  2. Geneva Langeland

    Incandescent, as always. We’ll miss you dearly, Gabe.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Thank you for your continued readership all these years, Geneva! You have been one of my all-time favorite post calvin writers, and your opinion carries a lot of weight to me. So, the feeling is mutual!

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    I almost couldn’t bring myself to click on this essay because I’m in a little denial that you’re graduating out of the post calvin. “The Way I Came” has been a pivotal piece in shaping how I understand making a home as a twenty-something. Thank you for sharing both the things you didn’t do and the things you did. They have made me, at least, a better person.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Hello, Alex!

      Thank you very much for these words. “The Way I Came” was a weird piece that I did not anticipate would hit home for others as much as it did. I am glad, though, to know that I’m working out how to make a home and build a life alongside others such as yourself. Thank you for your readership, and I wish you and the blog all the best in your continued growth and transformation.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    Dear Blogger Boy—

    Even if this is your final post, you will always be Blogger Boy to me. You will always be the person who wrote the words that reassured me I’d survive a move to Seattle. You will always be the person who made me type in “thepostcalvin.com” on the 20th of every month and hit refresh like a maniac. You will always be the person who took time out of his busy schedule to meet a new kid in town when I finally mustered up the courage to introduce myself, leaving me questioning why I waited so long. You will always be the person who consoled me after a breakup over cinnamon rolls. And, of course, you will always be the person who can commiserate with me over these owls’ antics!

    I think I speak for all of us when I say that after reading your words, I will never be able to leave the way I came.

    And I am so, so grateful.

    Jon

    Reply
    • Avatar

      “I know I have talents, but I wish I had more skills. I run, I write, I sing—all things that the majority of those in my world can do to some extent.”

      This line broke me. This was when I started crying, and didn’t stop through the rest of the piece.
      While others may write, you have an irrefutable gift to connect through your writing. It’s evident by all the comments left here, as well as–I’m sure–others who read, and are touched, but don’t leave comments.
      I’ve been reading the post calvin for years, and it is odd to recognize I dont know you AT ALL, but also feel like I do.
      As Jon mentioned above, your words have left a lasting mark on all who read them.

      I hope you continue writing somewhere.

      Thank you for sharing the parts of you you did, here.

      Reply
      • Gabe

        Caitlin,

        Thank you for this. I agree that I may have been a bit harsh on myself with that line, but I have found a lot of freedom during my tenure on the post calvin in being able to express some of my vulnerabilities and self-doubts more openly. (I hope you can trust that I have a fairly healthy sense of self-esteem, though!)

        Mostly, though, I want to thank you for the word “connect.” I enjoy writing these pieces for myself, but knowing that I’m also writing them for others, too, make it all richly rewarding. Often, I’m not aware of such connection until a kind reader like you takes the time to write and send a note like this, though. Thank you for that connection.

        Please know that I fully intend to continue my writing, and that I greatly appreciate your readership for this past chapter.

        Reply
    • Gabe

      Thank you, as always, Jonathan. Your close readership and kind feedback over the past year has been very affirming and very appreciated.

      I wish you all the best as you continue writing and making sense of the world, too!

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    You can write, you can sing, and—though I’ve never seen you do it—you can run, Gabe. Talents—not skills—in outrageous measure.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Thank you, Sheryl! I owe much of it to the constant encouragement from people like you for so many years. So, thank you, thank you.

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    Beautiful. Poignant. Love you!

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Thank you, Aunt Doreen! I appreciate your readership, and I love you, too!

      Reply
  7. Will Montei

    Your words rattle me here the way the first tear before crying does. I’ll miss you writing along with everyone else.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Oh, William. Thank you so much for your friendship, your readership, and for all of the work you have put into this blog.

      You know how I feel about you and your writing, so I hope you know how much these words mean to me, too.)

      P.S. In case you forgot, I feel very, very good about you and your writing. Splendid, in fact!

      Reply
  8. Kyric Koning

    Compelling and gorgeously written. You really can be an open book (and good Lord was that a fire line that followed–love it) and we have all benefited from it.

    Live your moments, Gabe Gunnink. You have some insanely fine stories. Keep telling them. If not to others, to yourself. The reminder is good.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Kyric, thank you so much for your continued readership and feedback. Once upon a time I tried to consistently comment on others’ pieces and encourage other writers for the blog, but I have failed to do so the past few years.

      So, I am very grateful for people like you that not only kindly encourage me but actively add the community of this blog as a whole.

      I wish you and the blog all the best going forward, and please trust that I will continue to write and tell stories!

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    Dear Gabe. Have enjoyed reading your articles the past couple years. I got to see you finish your marathon at the Arc de Triomph as l had only run the 1/2. Also got to watch you fly around the track earlier in the week. Best wishes for your future adventures. Will miss seeing future articles.

    Reply
    • Gabe

      Cameron,

      Thank you so much for these kind words and for your readership. The Gay Games changed my life, and I think the world of anyone who is involved with them.

      So, thank you for contributing to the vibrant LGBTQ running community that I have benefited from so greatly, and thank you for your encouragement.

      I wish you all the best in your running and hope to see you in Hong Kong!

      Reply
  10. Avatar

    Dear Gabe, thank you for this site. You were the first distant relative of the Gunnink family I found in America. Thanks to your site I now have mail contact with your grandfather Ray. All the best to you! Kind regards from the Netherlands, Gerda van Dijk.

    Reply

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