Excerpt: The Ecstasy
Towards the end of my working days, I was introduced to the computer and took the sharp learning curve to make use of it. As so many have, I discovered a whole world opened before me on the internet. A wealth of information was instantly available making my den a virtual library beyond imaginable scope. Articles, news, recipes, books, preaching resources...just about anything one wanted to know about was at one's finger tips.
Inevitably, I stumbled upon the personal ad sites, which I found intriguing if only for the sheer number of postings. I never found meeting people that easy in the gay community--especially not being interested in the meat market atmosphere of the clubs and bars. I figured I might as well try a few of the gay personal sites. Although I did correspond with a few nice men, nothing really ever came of those contacts. Quite often my age was an immediate disqualifier. But, generally, there were more 'mind games' being played than actual interest in meeting in person.
Then one evening while browsing I discovered a website called "The Apollo Network"--a site dedicated to matching up younger and older men. I was delighted and somewhat surprised to discover how many younger men were interested in mature gentlemen. Not many were necessarily to my taste. But I was greatly reassured just by the fact that they were out there. It became my habit to scan through the section of younger-looking-for-older, occasionally even sending off a 'hello' to those that sounded interesting, all of which amounted to very little until one auspicious evening.
Scanning through the postings on Apollo in May of 2001, I came across one that caught my eye. It was a very brief paragraph posted by a young man in Virginia. He stated he was interested in e-mail pen pals. He didn't have a photo posted, but his concluding remark arrested my attention, "A picture of thee gets a picture of me." Perhaps it was the use of that one word, 'thee', that tweaked my imagination.
The next day, being unable to get the thought of it out of my head, I returned to the site and found the posting again. It contained his e-mail address. So, I thought, What the heck. He sounds very nice and there's surely no harm in sending a friendly 'hello' from far away. I sent a short message and attached a discrete photograph of myself.
I received a reply the following day, which had the promised picture of me attached. His name was Devan Burnett and he sounded extremely nice in his email. I opened the attached photograph thinking, 'As nice as he sounds he is probably not going to be my cup of tea'--only to discover I was very mistaken. He was precisely my cup of tea.
We began to exchange e-mails and started the process of getting to know more about each other. We exchanged more photographs, and they got better as we went. Now, I didn't mean that! The additional pictures simply gave a more all-round, comprehensive view-after all, one photo captures only a split second. I was delighted that this twenty-four year old man and I had so much in common and shared such similar world views.
It wasn't too long before I felt I should tell Devan more about myself, particularly that I was a priest. I decided, instead of trying to explain it, I would simply send him a picture of myself in my work clothes. I have discovered that this revelation can have the effect of either being an enticement or being completely off-putting. Fortunately, Devan was intrigued. He wrote back and explained while he himself was not religious, the idea of seducing a supposedly unattainable, older priest-the quintessential 'forbidden fruit'--had always intrigued him.
Telephone conversations began soon thereafter, along with the daily e-mails shooting back and forth. Even though we had been communicating for only a short time, I was feeling I may have found what I had always dreamed about. Devan was a little more cautious. He had already made a move across the U.S. to pursue a relationship which had not worked out as he expected and was rightly wary about our situation.
However, after a few months of e-mails and telephone conversations, we both knew we were feeling quite in-tune and began thinking of making arrangements to meet and see where things would go. It was more convenient for Devan to make the trip to Vancouver, so in August of 2001 he flew up for a visit.
Meeting him at the airport was both nerve wracking and extremely exciting. I knew what he looked like, of course. But when he came through the international gate I discovered Devan's real-life smile and bright eyes much more than the pictures could do justice. We spent a delightful nine days together, getting to know each other. We rented a car so I could show Devan a bit of Vancouver, and the surrounding area, revisiting some of the places I had not been to for years. By the end of the holiday we both knew our feelings for each other were serious.
Despite my intense pleasure at having found such a wonderful young man--one who seemed to feel just as I did and was as interested in me as I was in him-I continued to have one lingering doubt. Not about our relationship but what would come of it. When I actually stopped and thought about it, I realized I was an old man, or getting there. I wondered about the ethics of entangling this young man in my life when the odds were that my life span would be so much shorter than his. More than just that, though that in and of itself was troubling enough to think about, I also had to contend with the idea of being a burden on Devan in my old age. What if I went doddery, as my own mother showed signs of doing? Would I want Devan to feel obligated to look after me?
When I voiced these concerns to Devan, he laughed a bit and said something to the effect that, "But who's to say you'll outlive me? I could step in front of a bus tomorrow, and that would be that. Besides, if you weren't the age you are, I don't know that we would even be together since I wouldn't have been attracted to you in the first place."
I must admit the idea of someone finding me attractive at my age is still something of a novelty. Even considering Devan and I met on a website devoted to linking up younger and older men, I still feel it a bit surreal to have this lovely young man telling me he thinks I am attractive.
In the end, my conscience was assuaged. I had been mostly concerned that Devan might not realize what he could be getting into. His response told me that he did.