All this talk about the ex-gay movement, and homophobia has brought back some of the most pleasant and unpleasant memories I have.
In 2000 I met a guy. His name was Kostas, he was from Crete and he was very very gay. It was Kostas' first year at uni and he came out to just about everyone he met. Largely, I suspect, because he wasn't able to be out at home both due to Cretan/Greek attitudes to homosexuality and because of his family. Kostas was loud and flambouyant. Once I teased him that the whole university knew he was gay. He flatly denied it so I challenged him, 'Come on, your lecturers know, your tutors know, all your friends know, the cleaners know, the dining room staff know...come on, is there anyone you are not out to.' Kostas thought for a moment and replied, with utter sincerity, 'You exaggerate, I have not told the bus driver.'
He taught me to swear in Greek (which came in very useful once in a kebab shop...) and I helped ensure that his pronunciation of English expletives was perfectly intonated darling. Once, when a strange guy was following me around campus, Kostas pretended to be my boyfriend. He held my hand, he stroked my cheek, he stared longingly into my eyes and introduced himself to my stalker as my doting boyfriend. Much to my disappointment he stopped short of giving me a proper snog (it was worth a try...I've heard that Greek men are very good kissers). We drank lots of coffee, we lazed around in the university gardens on long Sunday afternoons.
In the summer, Kostas called me from Greece. His father had found out he was gay (from a former lover...both his former lover and Kostas's from the sounds of it.) Kostas wasn't sure if he would be able to go back to uni. Then in September 2001, Kostas didn't appear. For weeks, every time I saw a tall, stocky bloke with Kosta's hairstyle, my heart skipped a beat and I would rush to see if it was Kostas, returning to uni a few weeks late. But he didn't return. No-one heard from him again...until 2002 just before I graduated. Then, out of the blue, I got an email. Kostas was at another university, he had demostrated to his father he was straight (by dating a girl for a year) and was allowed back to England on the proviso that he didn't contact anyone. He contacted a few people, and by sheer fluke I had an interview for a job (which I didn't get) about half an hour away from where he was staying.
We met up and I stayed with him for a few days. We had a lot of fun in those few days, but afterwards I had a sense of foreboding. I don't know why, and I'm not into premonitions, I just didn't feel like all was going to be honky dory. We talked on the phone a few times, and emailled. But then, Kostas's phone no longer worked, emails got bounced back. I had a number for a guy he had been seeing, so I rang him on the off chance. The guy had no clue, said he hadn't seen him in months and seemed a tad peeved that I'd called.
Once again, Kostas had disappeared. This time, I've heard nothing. There is a chance that he was drafted into the Greek army - Greek men must do 2 years military service although they can be excused on the grounds of further education, insanity or homosexuality. However, I doubt Kostas would have done that, as apparently being gay and being insane in Greece are considered one and the same, and both severely limit future job opportunities.
I knew a lot of people at uni but I've kept in touch with relatively few very close friends. I barely give most people a second thought, unless I hear some news about them on the grapevine or they get jobs near where I live. But Kostas remains with me, in my thoughts, always wondering what happened and if maybe, by some chance, we might ever meet again.