Escaping Loneliness Through Tony

As I mentioned previously, some of my friends ran a Telnet-based BBS on campus. With the dialup Internet access I paid for at home, I was able to continue as an active member of the BBS. A couple months after graduation, I even became a programmer there, working on adding new features and tracking down and fixing various bugs in the software. This meant I spent a good bit of time working with one of the other coders (who eventually became the only other coder for a time), Tony. As it turned out, Tony was also gay. In the course of working together, we ended up "online dating." It wasn't much of a relationship, but at the time, it was everything to me.

Tony and I never met in person. He was one of the people involved with running the BBS who was not at all connected to the university I attended. In fact, he lived in the United Kingdom, and none of us met him to the best of my knowledge. It was pretty obvious that the "relationship" between us was never going to amount to anything, as the distance alone made it impractical. However, at the time, I convinced myself otherwise. After all, at the time, I needed the relationship, or at least the feeling that I was in one. It didn't matter that it wasn't well grounded in reality.

In retrospect, I think the distance was a subconscious motivator for me to pursue an online relationship with Tony. In many ways, it allowed me to entertain fantasies of love and closeness without actually facing the reality of being with someone, especially sexually. At the time, my feelings about sex with another man were very much up in the air. It was obvious that I desired sexual contact, but I was still afraid of the idea. After all, I had grown up believing that it was something terribly wrong, and even dangerous. So Tony gave me an opportunity to explore the emotional aspects of a relationship without having to worry about physical or sexual intimacy for the time being.

Of course, the other thing that attracted me to Tony was his personality. He was rather reserved, as was I. In this way, he made a stark contrast to Chris, the other gay person who helped run the BBS. Chris was quite wild, to the point, and more than a little intimidating to me. To put it more succinctly, I was rather put off by Chris's whole personality, which I found biting. I found it much easier to deal with Tony's easy-going, semi-neurotic manner instead. Besides, I felt I could identify better with him, being rather neurotic myself at the time.

Eventually, all good fantasies must give way to reality, and my online fling with Tony was no exception. He eventually admitted to himself that we wouldn't work as a couple in the long run. As a result, he decided to disappear almost completely, sending me a note letting me know he felt it was for the best. I was devastated. My first relationship was over in just a couple of months, and it forced me to face once again just how lonely I felt.

I must admit that these days, I don't count Tony when I talk about how many boyfriends I've had. Despite how I felt back then, I've come to understand that what we shared wasn't a relationship in any sense of the word. At most, it was a matter of two lonely people trying to find solace. In my case, I thought it was the only solace I had at the time, and maybe it really was. But one thing that I came to realize eventually was that my time with Tony was more about desperation and not wanting to be alone rather than love. Unfortunately, that wasn't the last time I made that mistake.