Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming out - Part IV

I was nervous but also excited when we first got to Badlands. The music was loud and fun. Patrick and I ordered drinks and hung out for a while, and I was amazed at how quickly I began to relax. Everything seemed so 'natural' to me there. Guys talking, dancing together, kissing each other; guys who looked just like me – not just the stereotypes.

Patrick and I both loved to dance, so we danced together the rest of the night. The music was great and we had so much fun! When it was time to go home we decided right then to do it again the next weekend.


And the following weekend.

And the following weekend.

We went to Badlands every weekend for about 2 months. We’d always dance together and ignore the glances and ‘cruises’ from other men. This was our way of 'safely testing out the waters', and my way of ensuring I wouldn't get involved. It was so liberating to be there with my friend and with other guys like us.

Eventually we began to chat with others we saw there regularly. Most of the time it was general small talk, but I remember meeting this guy named Mark who drug me onto the dance floor when his favorite song came on: “Supermodel”, by the new artist RuPaul. Mark seemed to free and happy as he strut his stuff! The place had really grown on me. I felt comfortable at Badlands. But I couldn’t believe what I was doing – leading a double life. I was still going to all the meetings at the Kingdom Hall but I was having a blast at the dance club every weekend.

My good friend Debbie tried to help me to anticipate what might happen.


“Sooner or later you’re going to meet someone nice, Beach, who thinks you’re really nice too” she warned. “He’s going to want to date you. What are you going to do then?” I dismissed such a notion because my self-esteem was still on the mend, and I really didn’t believe yet that anyone would actually want to date me.

But she was right. Another night I danced with a guy (also named Mark) who invited me to come home with him. I turned him down graciously, telling him that I was “old-fashioned” and believed that “sex and love should go together”. I wasn’t ready to cross the line yet. I was still adhering to the JW morals with which I'd been raised. Mark smiled and suggested a date, so we exchanged phone numbers.

I'd never been on a date before, but a few days later I was so eager I couldn’t wait any longer so I called him and invited him to dinner.

I picked him up at his place in DC, and we rode together in my car to the restaurant he recommended: The Straits of Malaya. It was a balmy June evening so we sat at a table on the second story terrace, overlooking the street. I’m sure we talked until our food arrived, although I can’t imagine what about, since I was so naïve and hadn’t a clue about politics or current events back then.

No sooner had our food arrived and we begun eating when the sky suddenly darkened, the wind picked up, and it began to storm! Many other diners picked up their plates and hurried inside the restaurant. Figuring they had already gotten all the vacant tables inside the tiny restaurant, we huddled under the table umbrella, as close to the center of the table as possible, and tried to continue our dinner. A few minutes later the storm ended, and we were alone on the terrace. Looking back on it now, it seems quite comical. At the time it seemed utterly romantic.

Upon returning to his place he invited me in for coffee, we looked through his CD collection, and began to kiss. I wasn't ready to go to the next level physically, so I looked at my watch and remarked that it was late and that I’d better get going. We both said we’d had a good time, and he said he’d call me later. We kissed goodbye, which was pretty amazing for me, and I left.

He never called me back.

Another weekend at Badlands I noticed this very handsome man who entered the dance floor with a female. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt from the Boston bar called “Cheers”, which inspired the sitcom. We made eye contact a few times while dancing and he smiled at me. I smiled back and became instantly embarrassed. Not long afterward he and his female dance partner left the dance floor and I didn’t see them anymore the rest of the night. But I couldn’t forget the handsome guy in the “Cheers” T-shirt, with whom I’d made eye contact and exchanged smiles. Was I actually learning how to meet guys? I think so.

I still don't sure how I justified this at the time, since I was still pretending to be a JW, but I put an ad in the local gay paper, under the ‘Glances’ category. It read something like:

Me: blond in green button up shirt
You: brunette in “Cheers” T-shirt
Both: made eye contact and smiled. I hope that female is only a friend.

Just my luck, the guy saw my ad and called the number and punched in my mailbox number to leave a message. I couldn’t believe it! His name was Mark and he said the female was indeed just a friend. (It seemed every gay man I met that summer was named Mark.) He left his phone number and said I could call him, which I did. We talked briefly and then agreed to meet at Badlands on Saturday.

Patrick was amazed that despite my not being officially ‘out’, I had already been out on a date with a guy and now had another date scheduled with a different guy. Debbie reminded me of the conversation we’d had before when she asked me what I was going to do. This time my response was “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” I believe I knew what I was going to do, but wasn't ready to admit it yet, to Debbie or to myself.

It was just after 9pm on Saturday when I met up with Mark again at Badlands. I was taking medication for sinusitis and knew that alcohol would make me even more congested so I just ordered Diet Coke. Mark arrived, not wearing the “Cheers” t-shirt this time, and we sat at the upstairs bar, which wasn’t crowded or loud yet because the place had just opened. He seemed nice and we chatted for a little while. The conversation went rather smoothly until he asked about my previous relationship, at which point I basically told him I was 'just coming out' and hadn't had any relationships yet.


A little while later he said he needed to get going. He was leaving on vacation the next morning and needed to finish packing. I took this to be the way a NICE guy says he’s not interested, but as he stood up to leave he said “I don’t live far from here, so if I finish packing quickly, I’ll come back.” I said okay and wished him a good trip. I felt a little disappointed as he left. I knew he wouldn’t be back. We just didn’t seem to click the way I’d hoped. I stayed at the upstairs bar long enough for him to exit the building, and then I went downstairs where more people were starting to arrive.

Patrick couldn’t come out to the dance club that night (I don’t remember why). But I had gotten so comfortable there that I decided to stay, rather than leave just after Mark left. I had some casual conversations with a few guys, danced a little, and was approached a handsome man who told me his name was Wolfgang, or Wolf for short.


Feeling a little let down from my date with Mark, it seemed I had nothing to lose so I risked sounding silly and asked Wolf "What kind of a middle name goes with Wolfgang?" To my delight he picked up on my attempt at humor and replied "With a first name like Wolfgang, I don't need a middle name." We both laughed and he offered to buy me a drink ("another Diet Coke, thank you"). We talked, danced, and before I knew it my mood had lifted and I'd practically forgotten all about Mark and his "Cheers" T-shirt.

Then Wolf invited me to go outside where we could talk without having to shout over the loud music. But before we left the club, I needed to give him my “I’m old-fashioned/sex and love should go together” speech. I did, and to my surprise, he thought my convictions were completely admirable and said he didn’t think he’d ever meet someone like that. I was happy to be ‘off the hook’ just in case he had something else besides talking in mind, but was also impressed by his politeness.

Just as we were about to leave, who walks in the door? Of course - Mark!

I couldn't believe my eyes. He'd come back, just like he said he would. I felt terrible for having dismissed his offer to come back after finishing packing for his trip! I really thought he was just being nice. I really wanted to spend some more time with him but I was about go outside to talk with Wolf. What was I to do?

So I pretended I didn't see Mark come in the door. Wolf and I walked out, and I never saw or heard from Mark again.

Wolf and I walked up the block to a Greek café to have a bite to eat. It was warm but not hot so we sat at a table on the sidewalk and ate, talked some more, and then went for a short walk in the neighborhood. It was a beautiful night, especially for DC in July.


Wolf noticed it was after midnight and that he had missed the last train back to the northern suburbs where he lived. I considered giving him a ride home, but I lived in the southern suburbs and it would be completely out of my way, so I didn’t offer him a ride right away. He said he’d catch a cab. But somewhere between the Greek salad at the sidewalk café and the stroll through the city that warm July night, I decided it was time.

I offered him a ride home.

Crush du Jour: Kevin Youkilis

5 comments:

David Dust said...

I CERTAINLY hope the next line is:

"...and oh what a ride it was!"...

XOXOXO

Shirley Heezgay! said...

my but this is such a compelling coming out!

and remember: 'all gay men are named mark, rick or steve.'

CAMPsafe CONNECTED said...

Delicious crush of the day...

EMikeGarcia said...

Oh!

Shirley beat me to the Clairee quote!

Anyhow, I love the ingrained "ready-for-disappointment" we seem to share with every gay man. I think it's deeper than insecurity, but, maybe that's just me.

cb said...

All gay men are named Mark, Rick, or Steve... haven't you learned ANYTHING yet??