I just wasn't feeling it.
After so many years of heading down to the bar on Sunday afternoons, I've lately become rather recalcitrant about making the trip west. It's odd, but being at the bar for those couple of hours is yet another way I get to spend time with Tim. We share glances, smiles and short updates over the bar all through the evening. The nights that I rebel and stay home strangely feel like punishment. I revel in those evenings when my pals turn up en masse, but then there are those nights when I'm mostly left to my own devices, doing all I can to fade into the jukebox, watching the passing parade of disinterested men and fighting off impending panic attacks. But I'm a creature of habit and devotion, so mostly, I grab a sandwich for Tim and head on over to take my place and make my stand.
That night I arrived more than an hour later than I usually do. Tim saw my face and quickly passed me a shot of bourbon and a beer in hopes of awakening my liquid personality. As always, I short circuited the on-going Madonnathon for my own amusement and arranged myself in the same place I've stood for nigh onto a dozen years. In the dim red light, I caught sight of my grim, grey face in the mirror on the opposing wall and smiled ruefully.
As luck would have it, I was soon pulled from my doldrums by the arrival of a very small group of friends who piled their gear behind me, grabbed beers and arranged themselves around me, surrounding and distracting me from the dark thoughts that have nagged at me all season. I was most grateful for their smiles and small talk, the hugs and hilarity that ensued. The bar was filling up when the side door opened, and he walked in.
I recognized him immediately.
Though it had been over thirty years, he still pretty much looked the same. Tall, taller than me, age had filled out his rangy limbs and softened his lupine features. The same hank of sandy hair hung over his forehead. His pale hooded eyes searched the room as he walked to the bar. I could not take my eyes off him.
He wore a heavy black leather jacket, perfectly tailored to a man his size. I watched him as he made his way to the bar and ordered a drink. Leaning back, he sized up the crowd. Our eyes met briefly.
I saw him order another drink and make his way around the room. Various denizens of our forest stopped him, engaging him in conversation. One of our more forward souls cornered him against the bar, chatting him up as he reached and opened the top three buttons of his shirt, revealing his pale furry chest. Though he broke away minutes later, his buttons remained open.
Brushing up against him in the crowd as I made my own way to the bar, he smiled at me and muttered "Handsome man". I grinned back, stroked his arm and kept moving.
Later, as the bar slowly emptied, I returned back to my post at the jukebox to find him standing in my spot, grinning at me. I took a very deep breath and walked over to him. We smiled, exchanged names and a slow meaningful handshake. As he was about to make his move, I asked him:
"Did you live on the Upper West Side?"
He stopped short and looked at me.
"Did you have a boyfriend with dark curly hair?"
His eyes widened and he nodded. "David", he added.
Thirty five years, when Christopher Street was at the peak of it's glory, we'd promenade from Greenwich Avenue all the way down to the abandoned elevated West Side Highway. In an effort to brighten the waterfront and lessen the late night truck carousing, Mayor Lindsay had caused there to be a small waterfront park built adjacent to the open-air Morton Street Pier. Now, many of the other piers in vicinity are considerably more storied, but in those days the Morton Street Pier was our Piazza San Marco, our Grand Central Terminal. It truly was the crossroads of a thousand lives. Christopher Street was a mere thoroughfare for the crowds that would head down to the river and spend their weekends in the sun, breathing the fetid river air.
I first met John and David on that pier some sunny summer Sunday all those years ago. David was short, a muscular fireplug with dark curls. John towered over him, handsome and thin, regarding me with his gray wolfish eyes as David chattered away. I joined them for a drink outside Keller's shortly after we made our acquaintance. After a couple of beers, David mentioned that they thought I was really cute, and would I like to come home with them? I glanced first at John, then David, and decided it definitely would be a good idea. They hustled me into a taxi, placing me between them as we headed uptown.
I relayed in great detail the many and varied activities of that evening thirty five years ago to the gentleman leaning against the jukebox, watching as his smile grew wide in amazement. At first I'm sure he didn't believe my tale, but as the details I sketched fell into place, he began to warm to the notion.
"Well, you are just the sort of man I would have liked", he said.
"I was 20", I mentioned. He frowned.
"May I?", he asked, as he unbuttoned my shirt, revealing my chest.
"Oh, yeah", he breathed, "exactly the sort of man I like".
I shuddered, feeling every single one of those intervening years. I stepped back and took a deep and thirsty drink. He did the same, his eyes glowing at me. He pulled me forward by my shirt, close to him.
"It's really odd. Right at this moment, I feel so much love for you", he whispered.
His long arms draped around my shoulders as I wrapped my arms around him, our lips meeting.
Tightly, we held each other as years raced around us.