I STEPPED out of the shower and began to towel myself dry, critically examining my image in the mirror as I did. For the most part I liked, and was satisfied with, what I saw: crew-cut brown hair, square-jawed sort of face, broad shoulders, great pecs, smooth and hairless torso, narrow waist, big balls, well-developed and rather hairy legs. As usual, I tried unsuccessfully to ignore the various flaws, such as the scars on my torso and legs—among other things.
The angel on my right shoulder whispered in my ear, “David, my boy, you’re going to go out tonight and get laid.”
“But it was a total disaster the last time, and the time before that, so why subject yourself to all that again?” the devil on my left shoulder argued. “You might as well give up.”
“Because it’s like falling off of a horse,” the angel countered. “You’ve got to get right back on it again, and the sooner the better. There just has to be some guy out there who will accept you as you are… damaged goods and all.”
“Right,” the devil shot back. “Fat chance of that. How often has that happened in the last two years? You can count the number of encounters that actually ended with coupling on the fingers of one hand. One look at your naked body, and they head for the hills.”
Still, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” I thought.
Internalized debate over, I stepped up to the vanity and shaved. Then I applied deodorant under my arms and a splash of cologne to my neck before returning to my bedroom to dress. I selected a pair of well-worn 501s, pulled on a polo shirt, and slipped into loafers.
I lived in the Murray Hill section of Jacksonville, and it took me only twenty minutes or so to drive through the neighborhoods of Avondale and Riverside to reach the bar. As I pulled my aging Toyota into the parking lot of the bar, I saw that it was almost empty, which wasn’t surprising, given the early hour.
Ah, well. The smaller the crowd, the less chance there is of rejection.
Entering the bar, I noticed that the bartender was leaning on the far side of the U-shaped bar that divided the room, his back to the door, apparently deep in conversation with the rather good-looking, and only, customer seated at the bar across from him. The customer stared at me and said something that caused the bartender to turn and look toward me.
What was that about?
Walking to the opposite end of the bar from the two men, I waited for the bartender to take my order. He served me without comment, and, beer in hand, I selected one of the many empty tables and sat down.
IT WAS seven o’clock on a Friday evening, and, freshly showered and shaved, I was looking forward to an evening out. I gave myself one last look in the mirror and thought, Kevin, you look like you’re ready for anything. I’d eaten lunch a couple of hours later than usual and wasn’t ready for dinner, so I decided to stop at my favorite gay bar for a beer.
Don’t be misled by my use of the word “favorite.” I don’t particularly enjoy going to bars, and the one I selected was the least objectionable of those that were immediately available. On entering the bar, I quickly surveyed the room, which was almost empty, and selected a place at the bar that enabled me to see anyone who came through the door. Clancey, the bartender, brought me a beer without waiting for an order to be placed.
“Here ya go, Kevin,” Clancey said, placing the brew in front of me.
We were more than slightly acquainted and had, in fact, enjoyed a brief fling some months earlier, but like most flings, it hadn’t lasted. I was keeping one eye on the door while we chatted, and I said, “Look at what just came in. Do you know him?”
Clancey turned to look in the direction of the door, and said, “No, but I’d like to.”
The new arrival was very tall, good-looking, extremely well built, and carried himself with what I immediately recognized as a military bearing. He was dressed pretty much like myself—501s, knit shirt, and loafers without socks. To my dismay, the guy stopped at the far end of the bar, ordered a beer, and carried it to one of the tables on the other side of the room.
Clancey came back to where I was sitting, and said, “Like what you see?”
“You know I do.”
“Why don’t you do something about it?” he said.
“Well, you can hardly offer him a second drink at this point. You could, however, ask him to dance. That’s always a good icebreaker.”
“What a good idea,” I said. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you,” he said. “You just told me you’ve been doing without for awhile—go get him.”
I grabbed my beer and walked over to the jukebox, which was, at the moment, silent. I fed it some money and selected two slow numbers. As soon as the music began, I walked over to the guy’s table, set my beer down on it across from him, held out a hand, and said, “Dance?”
“I’m not very good at it,” the guy said. His voice was resonant, deep, and very sexy.
“I don’t see any judges waiting to hold up numbered signs, do you?”
The guy took my proffered hand and allowed himself to be pulled from his chair and led to the tiny dance floor. As I held him close for the slow dance, I noted with pleasure that we were roughly the same height—at six-four, I seldom ran into suitable men who were my size. I also noted that my dance partner smelled good—whatever he was wearing was both masculine and appealing.
“I’m Kevin,” I said. “Kevin Boxer.”
“David Majors,” he said. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Rangers. Does it show?”
“Takes one to know one,” I said. “Me too.”
“Seventy-fifth Ranger Regiment, Iraq and Afghanistan,” I said.
“Me too,” he said. “I wonder why we don’t know each other.”
“Same regiment, different battalions would explain it, and we’re working on it.”
I pulled David closer, and we danced until the music stopped, waited a moment for the second number to begin, and danced until it was over. After that, we went back to David’s table and sat with beers in hand. We talked for a while and played “Who do you know?”, as do most current and ex-military types. It developed that we knew, and had served with, some of the same people at various times. The similarities in our lives were amazing—we’d both joined the army right out of high school, and we’d been through the same training programs, only I’d been one year ahead of David, and we were both going to college courtesy of Uncle Sam, albeit at different schools. David worked in a distribution center operated by Winn-Dixie, and I worked for one operated by Publix, both jobs having been obtained because we’d learned to operate forklifts at some point in our army careers. A further parallel in our lives was the fact that we were both taking courses during the summer term that had just begun in order to speed up the process of obtaining our respective degrees.
Finally, I said, “Want to join me for dinner?”
“Sure,” he said. “Where?”
“Some place with good food and a fairly dark room where, if we want to do so, we can hold hands without being obvious.”
“Is there such a place?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said.
We left our unfinished beers on the table, and I followed David to the parking lot. That’s the best ass I’ve seen in a long time, and those well-worn 501s cling to it like the proverbial glove, I thought as he went through the door ahead of me.
There were only six cars in the parking lot, counting Clancey’s. I pointed to a Mustang and said, “This is mine.”
“Cool,” he said. “I’m right next to you in the Toyota. Where are we going?”
I named the restaurant. “Know it?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” he said. “Let’s go.”
AS I followed Kevin’s Mustang, my mind was working overtime, mostly pursuing negative thoughts. God, Kevin is such a hunk, and the dancing was wonderful, but hunks want to be with other hunks, not guys who have “limitations.”
Stop it! Think positively. This will turn out okay. It has to turn out okay; one more rejection will push me over the edge.
Twenty minutes later, we were seated across from each other in a booth in the darkest corner of a small Italian restaurant that was heavily patronized by the gay community. We ordered a bottle of Chianti and studied the menu.
AN HOUR into our meal, I found myself beginning to fantasize just a bit about the rest of the evening and wondering what David’s preferences were in bed. That train of thought was interrupted when David reached across the table, took my hand, and examined it carefully.
“You have unusually long fingers,” he said.
“So I’ve been told.”
“Does the rest of it follow?”
“You know, long fingers, long something else,” he said.
“More or less. Why, are you a size queen?”
“Not at all,” he said, “but I have difficulty achieving orgasm. It takes a man who can ride hard and deep to get the job done.”
Well, that’s one question answered.
“Is that an invitation?”
“You know it is,” he said. “Want to follow me home?”
“That’s pretty much a rhetorical question.”
We finished our dinner and played a quick game of “grab the check,” which I won. Then I followed David’s Toyota from the restaurant to a section of Murray Hill that was a bit more upper middle class than the rest of that neighborhood. He pulled into the driveway of a brick house that probably dated from the forties, and I parked beside him.
Standing in the driveway, I said, “Nice house.”
“Yeah, and the best part is—no roommates.”
“How do you manage that, if you don’t mind my asking?” I said.
“These days, when some kids go off to college, their parents buy a house for them. The kids find a couple of roommates, and the parents collect enough rent from the roommates to service the mortgage. When the kid graduates, the parents sell the house and take a capital gain if the property has appreciated.”
“My dad did that for my older brother. In my case, he was so proud of my military service that he bought this house and allowed me to sign an Agreement for Deed. The way it works is he pays the mortgage, and I pay him. For now, I only have to pay the taxes and insurance. He gave me six years to get an MBA and find a job—after that, monthly payments kick in, and in twenty years the house is mine.”
“That’s a sweet deal.”
“The downside is that interest is accruing every month.”
“Why didn’t your dad eliminate the interest for the six years?”
“IRS rules. If you fail to charge interest on a loan, they tax you on the interest anyhow. They call that ‘imputed interest’. They do the same thing if you charge less than the going rate.”
“It’s still a sweet deal, even with that.”
“Yeah, and a lot to live up to.”
He gave me a quick tour of the house, which wound up in the living room, and I said, “I thought we were going to wind up in the bedroom.”
“Later. We have to talk first.”
“About what happens next.”
What’s to talk about? We’re either going to fuck… or not.