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Monday 10 April 2017

To be with you: Josh writes

Posted in: True Stories
By Joshua Conkel - 23rd May 2013

Gus, a Kiwi, and Josh, an American, fell head over heels in love in New York, and were quickly in no doubt they wanted to spend their lives together. But it hasn’t been easy. They’ve each written pieces for sharing their sweet story, and how their lives have been impacted by the hefty reality of an archaic law.

“I’m not a shy person, but I found myself blushing when I talked to Gus. My palms were sweaty and I couldn’t look directly in his eyes. And his accent that he hates so much, God, it still makes me melt.”


Josh shares his story:

My man is the best.

When I met Gus a year ago, I was really just looking for a one night stand. I’d recently come out of a serious relationship and realized that, really, I’d been in nothing but serious relationships my entire adult life. I felt I’d missed sewing my wild oats and so I was out looking for a good time. I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighbourhood so thick with cute boys you can’t shake a stick without hitting one. Well, I found a good time, just not the kind I anticipated.

I’m not a shy person, but I found myself blushing when I talked to Gus. My palms were sweaty and I couldn’t look directly in his eyes. And his accent that he hates so much, God, it still makes me melt. Our one night stand turned into a long Memorial Day weekend which turned into spending every night together which turned into Gus actually moving in with me for the last few weeks he stayed in New York.

Oh. That.

Gus was only on a long vacation. He was going to be living in London in just a few months. We tried not to talk about it. We tried not to even think about it. I kept saying to myself, “This is crazy! He’s leaving and you’ll never see him again.” My friends secretly worried about me, and so I threw myself into Brooklyn’s tight knit Kiwi community (there totally is one.) Sometimes Gus would cry in bed and I’d ask if he wanted to stop seeing me. If he thought that was smarter. The problem was that we were in love. Already, we were boyfriends, whether we used those words or not. We both knew it before it was ever said. I’d try to tell him that everything would be all right, that we’d find a way. Though to be honest, I’m not sure if I really believed that.

When Gus left he was a wreck. He couldn’t stop crying. I tried so hard to make it okay, but I was falling apart inside too. He couldn’t email on the plane for some reason, so he quickly wrote a seven or eight page love letter by hand and texted a photo of each page to me. All before the plane took off. He’s one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known.

Gus was depressed in London. I was depressed in New York. We talked every day. We emailed back and forth all day, every day. After a couple of months Gus came back to New York for a three week vacation and for part of it we rented a cabin upstate, partly so that we could have some quiet and space, and partly so that I could finish my book. The trip was amazing, but Gus did cry at nights. This time when Gus had to leave it was much, much worse than before. He was sobbing uncontrollably the night before and day of his flight. I’d gone to a staged reading of a friend’s play and when I got out I had a voicemail from Gus. He didn’t get on his plane and he was headed back to my apartment. This was how Gus’s three week vacation turned into a six week stay. Not that I was complaining, mind you.


When the time came to leave again, Gus decided to return to New Zealand. He hadn’t been enjoying London and he wanted to go someplace, I think, where he just felt settled. I pushed for London. I’m a playwright, and I work in London semi-regularly, I know the city, I have friends there. At the time, New Zealand was just a concept to me. I remember asking Gus if New Zealand ever felt lonely because it was so isolated. Typical American egotism, I know.

People keep asking, why don’t you just get married? Well, the answer is complicated and puts our fate in the hands of some very dusty old skeleton men in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a nutshell, even though gay marriage is legal in New York State where I live, it’s not legally federally because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” signed in 1996 (DOMA for short.) So a gay married couple in New York is only entitled to the same STATE laws as married straight couples, but is barred from the FEDERAL rights that a straight couple receives. Immigration falls under federal law.

But still, we are getting married.

I visited New Zealand in March. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. What’s funny is how much it feels like America. I’m sure a lot of Kiwis would wince at that, but it’s true. They’re both new countries and culturally very similar. New Zealand feels to me like a more unspoiled California. In fact, Gus and I joked about this constantly while I was there. Auckland became “New L.A.” and Wellington was “New San Francsico” etc. Gus proposed to me in Wellington. He had our room turned into a bat cave when we were out one day. I came home to find it covered in spider’s webs and campy rubber bats. He’d made a bat piñata by hand, which I had to punch to open. Inside was a gorgeous fanged ring, which Gus offered to me on one knee. (This is all adorable if you know me. I’m a massive horror movie nut and I’m well known in the States for incorporating goofy Gothic touches to my writing.)

Currently the Supreme Court is weighing DOMA’s constitutionality and will rule this Summer. But Gus and I can’t wait anymore. I’ve decided to join him as soon as I can. I’m excited and terrified. People keep telling me I might be committing career suicide, but I figure I can write from anywhere. Even if Kiwis don’t want my plays, I’ve been getting productions in Australia and the U.K. and mainland Europe and it’s not like New York will forget that I ever existed (I hope.) I’d just signed to one of the top TV/Film agents in the U.S. though and was working on selling my first TV pilot. These kinds of opportunities might have to wait until I get back to America. The truth is, I’m just not sure.

But I love Gus. I’m in love. And also? I love New Zealand. It doesn’t make me lonely. It’s beautiful. Kiwis are beautiful. I want to raise half Kiwi/half American babies with Gus and split our time between Brooklyn and Wellington. If I’m giving anything up, it doesn’t ultimately matter. I’m giving it up to start a life with the man I love.

If you met Gus, you’d love him too. He’s kind of the best.

Read Gus' story here!

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Joshua Conkel - 23rd May 2013