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The Making of a Gay American

At home in Plainfield.  

After the Record story, things between Golan and me never returned to normal. In April, Dina and I finally moved into the governor’s mansion, Drumthwacket, creating an even larger barrier to the secret affair. Now I lived behind a remotely powered gate in a building surrounded by state troopers and domestic staff. I was miserable.

At my encouragement, Golan moved from Woodbridge to Princeton to be nearby. He found a townhouse he liked in the West Windsor community but was apprehensive about taking on the expense. I inspected the property with him and offered to co-sign the mortgage if he needed. Clearly I was courting discovery more actively now.

I was glad to have him so close, but it was never like Woodbridge. In our fishbowl existence, I managed to visit him there only once. It seemed like a mistake. He hadn’t yet hung any curtains on the back of the house, whose windows looked into the woods.

“This is insane,” I told him. “The state troopers are sitting in the parking lot.”

Golan was as cautious as I was. We locked ourselves in his bedroom, fearful refugees from our own lives.

We even started curtailing our official interactions, to quell talk among the staff. But our affair continued, in a fashion. It was crazy. We knew that reporters were increasingly curious about what appeared to be a “special relationship.” The Gannett chain had sent reporters to Israel; Golan’s childhood friends were asked about his history with men and women.

Golan couldn’t stand the pressure. His calls to me became frantic. For him, I think, being known as gay would have been worse than death. The idea of people digging through his personal life paralyzed him with fear.

Of course, I have to admit that there’s a chance Golan isn’t gay. I have thought about this often. Though he claimed he’d never had sex with a man before, I didn’t believe him. Since our secret became public, he has denied having a homosexual identity. I don’t believe that. But it’s possible that our shared attraction did tempt him to cross the aisle, just as my love for my first wife, Kari, and later for Dina had carried me into heterosexual romance. Still, he never expressed any conflict or regret about our time together.

One afternoon in May, after a meeting at Drumthwacket, Golan stayed behind in the rather uncomfortable library on the first floor as the other state officials left. Dina was upstairs with Jacqueline. I looped through the kitchen and dismissed the cook and building manager, returning to the library with two cups of tea. Behind the library was a more intimate study, a small room lined with historic books and oil paintings.

Golan was frustrated. He felt that I was freezing him out of my inner circle. It had been weeks since we’d seen each other.

“Of course, I want to be with you—selfishly,” I told him. “But my time is fully regulated now. The scheduling process is brutal.”

I closed the blinds. We kissed. There was a feeling of doom, as if we both knew this was the end. The thought made me crazy.

“I love you, Golan,” I said. “You make me so happy. I’ve never, you know … ”

He looked so sad just then; I knew he understood.

“I could leave all this behind. I could leave the governor’s office and the career in politics. I would. I would leave it all for you if you told me we’d be together forever.”

He seemed shocked. “Do you mean that?” he asked.

I did mean it. But looking into his eyes I could see that life ever after was not a possibility. He was not willing to walk into the sunlight with me if it meant walking out of politics. He was like me that way—desperately wanting two things that could never fit together.

“Yes,” I answered.

He didn’t reply.

Although we never said a word about it, we both knew this was the end of our affair.

Over the course of the summer, the press scrutiny grew more intense and Golan and I grew further apart. Under mounting pressure, I called him to a meeting at my statehouse office to ask him to leave. I knew politics meant the world to him. He’d come halfway around the world to see how far his political talents would take him in America and I was cutting it all short. I apologized in a million different ways.

“Gole,” I said, “it’s about the government, it isn’t about individuals. You did nothing wrong. But you can’t stay. It isn’t tenable.”

“You said you’d give it all up for me,” he threw back at me.