I Met Him On A Sunday
I was newly single and living on my own for the first time since 1976. It had been almost a year since I first came crawling from the wreckage of my previous relationship. I had cautiously re-entered the scene, chastened and more than a bit nervous, but none the less resolved to get on with my life, such as it was.
I threw myself into the current social whirl, albeit without a single clue as to how to interact socially in this fairly foreign environment. My teenage trick of leaning against a wall with a sullen, slightly wounded look clearly was not going to work for me twenty years later. I'd head over to the Dugout on Sundays, grab a beer and stand outside, glowering under the shade of a tree, smoking a cigar. Sometimes, men would approach and offer beers, but I truly could not decipher their motives. In some ways, I was a wild child, raised by wolves, and desperately in need of socialization.
Slowly this occurred. An assortment of men, braver than I, scaled the barriers I had erected, and I found I had a very small circle of acquaintances. We'd see each other on weekends and hang out at the Spike, the Eagle, Ty's and the Dugout. Creature of habit that I am, I immediately took to the ritual hours, assignations and rendezvous. Soon, I could be counted on as a regular.
Early that spring, I was standing in Weehawken Street with one such friend, Blaine. The weather had recently turned temperate, and the crowd filled the street from curb to curb, spilling all the way back to the old oyster house that has been standing there for over 155 years. Blaine had decided that I was "fun" one wintry Sunday evening, and had taken to showing me the ropes around town. We stood in the center of the street, as group after group of his NYC friends, his Connecticut friends, his Provincetown friends, his Florida friends came by and I was introduced. Most were moderately friendly to this new face.
A handsome blonde doctor from Hartford hung out with us for a while and passed a joint, as he regaled us with tales of a wild threeway he and his partner had had the night before. I felt totally unsophisticated, a country mouse in the big city, as I listened to his story. As the joint came my way, I partook, inhaling deeply. I wondered what part I might play in this new world and took another hit as the joint passed again. The sensation that I might be getting into something well over my head was amplified by yet another deep inhalation. We finished up and the doctor moved on, to be replaced by a group of men who had just gotten off work from their stint at the Spike, where brunch was served on Sunday afternoons.
I was introduced to all and sundry. I smiled and shook hands, well aware that the pot had plastered a stupid grin across my face, veiled my forehead with a sweaty sheen, and rendered me somewhat speechless. The last person was a good friend of Blaine's, and stayed to chat. I looked him over as the two of them laughed about various indignities suffered at the hands of patrons during the course of the long afternoon's brunch service. I took this opportunity to check him out. He was wearing jeans and boots, a white Russian River t-shirt and what used to be called bar vest: a black leather vest cut short and straight at the waist and deep at the shoulders to show both off to splendid effect. He had dark brown hair and clear blue eyes. I kept thinking how neat he was, not in that 50's Dobie Gillis sense, but just how well put together he was. While his upper torso was sort of boy-ish, his lower half was solid as a Shetland pony's. He had a winning smile and a laugh that cut through the crowd.
I realized after a while, that I hadn't said anything in all the time we'd been standing there. I'd been struck dumb by the pot. Aware of my appraising glances, he would look at me quizzically from time to time. Finally, I realized I must say something, anything. I leaned in, grabbed his wrist and said:
"I'm so sorry, I'd like to talk with you, but I've just smoked pot and I'm really high."
Oh. Great. The interior storm trooper, liberated by pot consumption, took control and began the self flagellation I felt I so richly deserved. What a moron. Those remained the first and only words that came out of my mouth as we stood there. I lost track of the rest of their conversation as I continued to inwardly kick myself.
The gentleman was gracious, however, and when he was ready to call it a night, announced that he was going to head towards the PATH station and home. We volunteered to walk him to the station, on our way to Ty's. At the station, I at least had the presence of mind to slip my hand under his vest and kiss him. He regarded me with his cool blue eyes and headed down the steps.
I found out he was in a relationship. Soon, I'd see him and his boyfriend out wherever we went. It turned out we had several mutual friends and orbited around one another for the next two years, meeting up, laughing, drinking with our respective intermingled groups of friends and enjoying each other's company when we spoke. Once, the New York Times ran an article about panhandling on the PATH train. It was accompanied by a photo of a poor destitute man working the car. Sitting behind him, quite proper and erect, was a man in a leather biker jacket. My telephone rang all day, as people saw it and called to ask if it was my friend. It was.
I saw him one night in Ty's, on his way out to a bigger and better evening, standing under a spotlight in a pair of molded leather chaps and that same biker jacket. The image remains seared in my brain.
After a year or so, he and his partner called it quits. I watched from afar, as he dated some other guys we mutually knew. He clearly wasted no time.
On a Friday night, some months later, I was standing against a column in the Lure. I had been talking with the bartender about the quiet evening. It was the first night of Passover, and all the Jewish leathermen were attending Seders elsewhere. In fact, I had just come from one, having eaten myself into a food semi-coma. I had gone home, changed clothes, and headed out, feeling bloated.
I was sipping bourbon, thinking it might have the effect of a Trou Normand on all that food. I peered out over the meager crowd, eavesdropping on the conversations going on behind me at the bar. Friends of a much younger gentleman I had been recently dating were discussing me. As I struggled to listen, a pair of strong hands landed on my shoulders and started massaging them. Clueless, I allowed this to continue for some time, before turning around. To my surprise, it was my newly single friend, with a most interesting look in his eyes I'd never seen before. I smiled and allowed him to continue a bit, before I turned around, put my arms around him, pushed him up against the column I had been leaning against, and kissed him hard and long.
This went on for some time, and the group of gossips sitting behind us started hissing like a gaggle of geese. I took his hand and led him outside.
I sat down on the rusting iron loading dock that adjoined the Lure, pulled him between my legs, and continued kissing him, pausing only now and then to look down and admire his growing excitement. I'd had no clue he felt that way.
I was in no shape to take him home that night, but I asked him to call me.
He did. The next morning.
We've been talking ever since.
Tomorrow, Tim and I will celebrate our 11th year together.