Different Drum by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By Being Different

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In the summer of 1970 the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society had the wonderful opportunity to sing two concerts at Tanglewood, with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa. It was an exciting time. We spent the week before the concerts living at Tanglewood, with many rehearsals but also quite a bit of free time. I gravitated towards Horace, a tall and handsome Glee Club guy who seemed different from — and more interesting than — most of the Glee Club guys. His differentness was intriguing. He was close with Peter and Kathy, who were Glee/Choral royalty, a beautiful couple who were the acknowledged leaders of their respective choruses. So that was an added bonus to hanging out with Horace, I also got to hang out with Peter and Kathy. But mainly it was Horace who I wanted to be with.

As it turned out, Horace and I were both spending the summer in Cambridge, so we agreed we would get together after we got back from Tanglewood. And as the weeks passed, we did have several dates in Cambridge that were a lot of fun. He was very low-key about things, not like most of the guys I had been dating in college who were mainly interested in sex. But I didn’t think anything of it, actually it was kind of a relief.

Then, finally, at the end of one date, we ended up in bed together. We were at his house, he had cooked me dinner, we had drunk a lot of wine, and then there we were. It turned out that he was unable to perform, and he was so apologetic. I told him it didn’t matter, and I rolled over and went to sleep. But I could tell he was bothered. We didn’t try again after that.

When classes started in the fall, he told me he didn’t want to see me any more. He said the reason was that he was black and I was white, and we were just too different. I was crushed. I didn’t feel that we were so different, and I had never sensed that from him before either. I wondered if he was getting pressured by the other black students, some of whom were pretty militant. I heard months later that he was dating another white girl. Thinking about it now, it was just that people saw them together in the dining hall, so who knows if they were actually dating or not. But at the time I believed it, and it made me feel even worse that his racial excuse had been a lie.

In the Twentieth Anniversary Report for our class, in 1992, he wrote in for the first time. He was living in LA, working in the entertainment industry. He listed a spouse/partner named Robert. All of a sudden, I understood. Yes, we were too different, but it wasn’t about race at all.

In 1994 he died of AIDS at the age of 44. I was stunned when I saw his obituary in Harvard Magazine. It was also in the New York Times, not a paid notice but an actual article about him. I wished that I could have gotten to know him again after he was out.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, a stunning story of attraction on many levels, but not all. Horace sounds so interesting; he just hadn’t come to terms with who he was yet, which wasn’t uncommon in that era. I can feel your sadness for wanting to know him better. AIDS claimed so many fine, sensitive people back in those days. They were confusing times for many. Cherish the moments you had with him.

  2. John Zussman says:

    Very moving and poignant. Your story reminds us that when someone feels compelled to live a lie, it hurts a whole web of people around them.

  3. More great story-telling, setting the story first with the Tanglewood context and bringing in the characters, so well-motivated. I especially liked your frank retelling of your opportunity to hang out with da big shots! You described that universal arc we have all taken with the friends we have grown distanced from and then lost. Also impactful was how you revealed reason for the disconnect between you and Horace, not at the moment of your time in bed but as the final revelation. Very moving!

  4. John Shutkin says:

    An incredibly moving story (and not just because I am pretty sure I knew Horace a little bit). And, as noted by others, your openness about your difficult interactions with Horace and the follow-up — including your ignorance of what the real difference was — is really impressive. Plus, your story so well encapsulated what differences were considered acceptable (race) and not (homosexuality) at that time. Don’t you wish you knew what Horace knew –or didn’t know –about himself then?

  5. Glad I caught up with this in missed stories, Suzy.
    It made me think of a guy I was involved with who seemed to have little invested in betterment our physical relationship.

    He was a college wrestler and a passionate water surfer, and swam nude in a mens-only pool. I realized after we parted that of course he was gay.

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