To this day, it stays with me.
In the early '90s, I was walking down Harwood Street in Vancouver's West End, between Cardero and Burrard, a distance of about eight long blocks. It was a sunny and warm late spring morning–the birds chirping and the blossoms on the ornamental cherry trees in full bloom–and I was on my way to catch the bus to work.
About half way, I found myself following a couple of young men. I'd guess they were in their early twenties (about ten years younger than me at the time), both cute and recognizably gay. One had a small dog on a leash. I couldn't stop watching them, partly because they were directly in front of me, and partly because they fascinated me. I don't think they knew I was behind them.
A couple of blocks before Burrard, where I caught my bus, the two young men stopped and kissed–nothing showy, just a simple peck on the mouth. They looked back and saw me walking toward them. One turned left then and started walking up the street toward downtown Vancouver; the other kept strolling along the sidewalk, dog in tow. I passed him and continued on my way to the bus stop.
The kiss had surprised me. Sure, Vancouver's West End is known as a popular area of the city for gay men, but this was the early '90s, when I don't recall seeing many men hold hands, let alone kiss, outside the gay clubs or a few blocks on Davie Street, now known as the gay village. The young men had taken a risk, no question. But no one could have been happier than me that they did.
There was no question in my mind the two young men were a couple; or, at least, I wanted them to be. And, at that point in my life, I hadn't seen many gay male couples, let alone any who were tender to each other in public, with little regard for being seen or upsetting an onlooker's sensibilities. In other words, the kiss seemed as natural as could be, not at all out of place.
All that day at work, I felt lighter than I had in a very long time. Foremost on my mind were the two young men I'd seen that morning, and the way they'd been with each other. Whether they realized it or not–I'm sure they didn't–they'd given me a gift. They'd given me hope. To me, they were an example of what a gay male couple looked like, what young men in love with each other looked like.
For perhaps the first time, I began to see what was possible for me. On the bus that morning, I remember saying to myself, I will have what they have someday. And I believed it. I truly did. As far as I was concerned, if they could have what they had, why the hell couldn't I? What was possible for them was just as possible for me.
A year or so later, I met Chris. My life changed for the better. My life changed forever.