Today is the 28th anniversary of the day Lisa and I ran into each other outside the old Science Fantasy Bookstore in Harvard Square. It wasn’t actually the first time we met — we’d been introduced the previous spring by a mutual friend — but it marked the beginning of our serious friendship. If I’d realized I was gay, it would have been the day we started dating, but I hadn’t gotten that far yet.
At the time, I was actually dating someone else — someone male, at that — but I did know that Lisa was someone pretty special. After all, we’d stood outside the bookstore door just talking for forty-five minutes before we noticed that (a) the sun had gone down and (b) I hadn’t made it into the bookstore. Anyone who can distract me from a bookstore....
We decided to go to dinner, because we were getting cold and hungry, and ended up at a long-defunct restaurant called the Swiss Alps. I can’t remember if it was the place with the fondue or not — there was a place we went to that had fondue, and another one with crepes and a fabulous array of soups, and still another that had things like chicken cordon bleu — but the restaurant could probably have served me cardboard that night and I wouldn’t have noticed.
We talked. Lisa went off and found a pay phone so she could let her mother know she’d be late home. (That alone tells you how long ago this was.) We talked some more. We both loved Star Wars (there was only one Star Wars then) and Lord of the Rings (the only movie was the Bakshi cartoon; it was the books we were talking about). We’d read many of the same books, and pretty much liked and disliked the same ones. We both loved theater, but Lisa knew more about it than I did, and had actually been in a number of high school and college productions and was working for a theater bookstore. We both loved history, but I knew more about it than she did, and was making it my major. We both wanted to write. And then, for some reason, we got into a discussion of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels — the first trilogy, which was, yes, all there was then. In fact, there may only have been two of them out at the time. We had both enjoyed the books, but there were some plot points that we didn’t agree with, and we were happily hashing them out when there was a lull in the conversation. And in it my voice rang out clearly: “If Duncan had just cut his throat right then when he had the chance —”
Heads turned. I wanted to sink right through the floor. And Lisa giggled. Not nervously, but with genuine, unembarrassed amusement, and I laughed, too, and it was all right. The awkward moment passed, we had dessert, and when Lisa found out I’d never seen Dr. Who we went back to my dorm room and commandeered the television. We could barely make out the picture, but it didn’t matter. She called her mother and told her she was going to be later still, and eventually I walked her over to the subway station to catch the last train back to Dorchester. But she didn’t leave without making plans to get together again, and the rest... Well, the rest was pretty good, too.