|His name was Jason Erik Gordon Christopher Elmer Maki, nickname "Gemini" from
Kingston Ontario Canada. He had gotten my name and address from a Prince fan
mailing list. I got his first letter on the day my family moved to an apartment
in Melrose Massachusetts in August of 1987, after living with my grandmother in
her Victorian house for three years. I had never corresponded with anyone
through the mail before, but found the thought of communicating with someone in
another country intriguing. So I picked up a pen and started writing. Thus began
I was only twelve years old at the time, so even affording stamps was a challenge, but we wrote to each other every week. We shared our love for music, and wrote about our lives. His grandfather passed away, and Jason wrote about how much he missed him. I could relate to those letters, because my Grandfather passed on a few years before. So we shared our grief with each other, and it wasn't too long before I considered Jason a very good friend.
In February of 1988, I got a surprise phone call. It was Jason. My heart was beating a mile a minute, because I never expected him to call me. It was exciting talking to someone who I had been sending letters to every week for the past 6 months. We instantly clicked on the phone - he had a great sense of humor, and a sweet voice. He was just as nervous talking to me as I was talking to him, and we conversed like two kids who had a crush on each other. Even though he was calling from a different country and it was expensive, we stayed on the phone for at least an hour.
A few weeks later, I received a tape in the mail. Jason was a musician and played his instrumental music for me on the tape, and also responded to some of my letters. To add to the humorous aspect of the tape, he had even recorded himself singing over some of Prince's songs. I must have listened to it a hundred times in just a few days - playing it reminded me of our funny conversation on the phone, and it was the most personal thing anyone had ever done for me at that point in my life. It was obvious on the tape, that our friendship meant a lot to him.
A few months of corresponding went by, and I got another phone call from Jason. His tone of voice was a little more serious this time, and he seemed more nervous. He had something to tell me. "I know that I'm five years older than you, but we have so much in common. I look forward to your letters, and hearing your voice. I think I'm in love with you." He said a great deal more, and seemed to go on for eternity, but I think I lost the ability to hear after the first sentence. I think I was trying to get my head around this concept. I felt something more than friendship for Jason too, but I didn't know what it was. I was thirteen years old, and never felt quite this way. But how would it be possible to have a relationship with someone thousands of miles away? My mind dismissed it - its just not possible. And there was no way I could ever hold his hand, or talk to him in person. I was able to listen again as he asked an important question - "Would you be my girlfriend?"
I felt myself wanting to say "Yes", and jump for joy....Jason would make a great boyfriend, we had so much in common and he was nice. I had no idea what he looked like, and I would never meet him. I felt sad....how could I say "Yes" to something I could never fully experience? Before I could think about it anymore, my mind pushed aside my heart and said "I think we should just be friends." Jason sounded crushed, and took a deep breath. I was kicking myself, as I hadn't even fully digested his words before I spoke. My quick response made it seem like it was no problem at all to make my decision. He understandably reasoned that I must not have felt the same way.
At the time I was corresponding with a girl who was a few years older than me, her name was Gretchen. She corresponded with Jason as well. She told me Jason had been writing to her about me, asking for advice, and that she had advised him to tell me how he felt about me. She had also heard a tape he made for me, apparently singing some songs for me. She said he was only going to send it to me if I felt the same way about him. She told me that Jason was very distraught that I rejected him.
After sending Jason a few letters, I realized he was wasn't going to write to me again. After not hearing from him for over a month, Gretchen told me that she and Jason had become very close through letters and phone conversations, and that they were "dating." This was my first lesson on how women will just stab each other in the back. She knew how I really felt about Jason but her response to me was "Well, you didn't want him, so I have him now." Its a good thing she lived in Oklahoma, otherwise I would have had my first physical fight with a girl who wasn't my sister.
Shortly after Gretchen told me she and Jason were "dating", Jason sent me a very hurtful letter. He again professed his love for me, with the perfect balance of passion and anger. It is still one of the most emotional letters I've ever gotten in my life. I would almost like to frame it someday.
After about a year went by, I got a phone call from Jason. He apologized for the way things ended. He confessed that although his feelings for me were legitimate, and he knew I had feelings for him too, that I made the intelligent decision. I told him I didn't even feel like I had made the decision, it was as if someone else had done it for me and I regretted it. He said, "Even if you had made the decision you wanted, it wouldn't have been the right one. It's very hard for me to tell you this but....I'm gay."
I was more than a little shocked, and maybe a little upset, but all of a sudden I understood a lot of things. At fourteen though, I had never known anyone who was gay and admit that I was a little prejudice. All I had heard was what kids say in the school yard. Because I didn't have a boyfriend, I was often accused of being a lesbian, so I really only had negative experiences with those words. As a little kid, you tend to be taught to hate the words "gay" or "lesbian" because they carry with them negative stereotypes, and its drilled into your head that its something you don't want to be.
Trying to keep an open mind, Jason became my educator. He would talk to me about how he figured out that gay was what he was, and how he met his boyfriend Ken. Sometimes they would both get on the phone and talk to me, and the three of us always had great conversations. Jason would send me movies like "Torch Song Trilogy" that would open my mind a little more, and we would talk about them. When Gretchen decided she wanted to "come out" to her friends, Jason helped her tell them. I'll never forget that phone conversation with Gretchen and Jason, and how I foolishly burst into tears when Gretchen told me she was a lesbian. When she asked me what was wrong, I said "Why is everyone turning gay on me?????!!!!!", and suddenly what started out as sadness turned into hearty laughter. I had never laughed through my own tears before, and their sense of humor and openness about who they were made us become better friends. They really taught me to see the humor in difficult situations, and they were my first close friends.
After I left for college, my correspondences with Jason and Gretchen became less and less, until we gradually lost touch. Jason sent me a gift when I graduated from high school. Gretchen e-mailed me after September 11th, to see how I was doing and if I knew of anyone who had died in the attacks because she heard the planes took off in Boston. I don't know where either one of them are today, or how they are doing. But I will always be greatful to them for their friendship.
Jason (left) and Gretchen (right)
Continue on the journey