JIN PARK-ROBINSON & Sergei Robinson

May 31, 2014

Institutionalize Homosexuals—Support Gay Marriage!

“Is it indecent to open the wedding favor at the wedding?” Dante asked me, fiddling with the mini bottle of pinot noir with the wedding label on it.

“There’s an open bar, Dante.”

“Do you know what gay weddings and straight weddings have in common?” Dante drawled.

I suppressed an eye roll and sipped my gin and tonic. “Bridezillas.” That meant nothing against the present happy couple. Both Serge and Jin were too well grounded for any such nonsense.

“Open bars, Joshua. They have to have open bars to keep the guests from clawing their own eyes out.”

“Maybe instead of fighting for our rights to get married we ought to do the charitable thing and use our influence to liberate the straights from their oppressive institution.”

“Hey, that’s an idea!”

“Well, you start the movement and I’ll attend all the fundraisers.” I patted Dante’s shoulder.

“Is that Jin’s sister?”

I stared at Dante. No need to glance around the lofty, gilt-limned sanctuary-cum-ballroom for someone who resembled Groom A. I’ll leave out the psychosocial analysis on getting married in a garden and receiving guests in the grand chapel of a (former) monastery. Desanctified churches are a Pittsburgh specialty. “I know you didn’t actually ask that.”

“Well I don’t know. Women all look alike to me. Forget that. Now, what about the guy who looks like a construction worker?”

Now that, I did look around for. Following Dante’s gaze, I spotted a guy standing by one of the purple up-lit transept columns. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he was built like a brick shithouse, and the suit he was wearing emphasized his physique rather than hiding it. Think Daniel Craig with broader shoulders and David Beckham’s close-cropped, sticky-up hair.

“Gotta be somebody on Jin’s side. I’ve never seen him, and I’d definitely remember that.”

“Maybe he was around when you were still with—”

“No. I’d have remembered.”

“I’m empty. Get me more?”

“Dante, they’re going to think I’m an alcoholic.” I picked up Dante’s glass and headed toward the bar beside the former altar.

“Yeah, but they’d know I am,” Dante called after me.

Stepping up to the bar, I ordered another gin and tonic and a virgin Bellini.

“That’s probably the first time anyone in this room has uttered the V-word in at least fifteen years.”

I looked up to see beside me the construction-worker type Dante had pointed out before. I’m five ten, so this guy had to be six two. I told myself to play it casual. “Yeah, no kidding. More like twenty for some of us.”

“Ben Bauer,” he said, offering his hand.

“Josh Douglass,” I responded, accepting it. “Are you a friend of Jin’s?”

“Serge. He and I went to college together.”

“He always said he hated college. No offense.”

“None taken. We both hated it. Kind of for different reasons, but it’s still why we were friends.” Ben had a cute, lopsided smile to go with that earth-shaking jawline. “You?”

“I know him from one night when Dante and I were hopping all the same bars as him. He was on his own and didn’t look very used to clubs.”

“Dante’s the virgin?”

I almost choked on my gin. “That’d be the day!”

Ben grinned. “I meant the virgin Bellini.”

“Oh… yeah. He doesn’t know it, though. He thinks he’s getting shitfaced for free. Social experiment, really.”

Ben smirked. “Power of suggestion, huh?”

“Exactly,” I said, glad he appreciated my twisted sense of humor.

“Well, nice to meet you. I’ll let you get back to your partner before he tries to pick a fight with me. Fights happen when people get tanked up like that.”

“Oh he’s not my partner, we’re just best friends. I can only stand his presence a few hours a week; no damn way I’d be with him!” I leaned in toward Ben a bit, emphasizing the point and, hopefully, also emphasizing my absolute availability.

“Jesus Christ, who do I have to blow to get a drink at a gay wedding?” Dante called out, sauntering toward the bar.

I rolled my eyes at him. “Anybody but me, jag-off. Here. And, please, one does not pound a Bellini.”

“What kind of lowlife do you take me for? And you haven’t even introduced me to your nice friend. Hello, Nice Friend. I’m Dante and he’s rude.”

“Hi, Dante, I’m Ben. And, actually, I’m probably the one who’s going to be rude because I think I have to steal your friend for a few minutes,” Ben said with an encouraging smile. “I kind of really like this song and I’m hoping he’ll dance with me.”

I smiled back at Ben and set my drink aside. Moving to follow Ben to the dance floor, I saw Dante mouth “Edge of Glory?” at the bartender before downing his Bellini and gesturing for another.

“You’re fun!” I said above the music as I danced with Ben.

He leaned in close to my ear. “You’re cute.”

I moved to dance closer. “What are you doing after this party?”

“Just driving back home. That’s not set in stone, though. What do you have in mind?”

“Where’s home?”

“Near Grove City.”

“Yeah, mine’s definitely closer.” Allow me to explain something. The fact I had to cross one of the rivers to attend this wedding reception and Ben didn’t technically make his place “closer” in Pittsburgh terms. Even if his is fifty miles north of here and mine is five miles east. I went over a bridge to come over here! We really are that insular.

“Sound like you’re in a hurry,” Ben said, stroking my hip.

I flashed him a grin. “I might just be on the edge of glory.”


“Oh, don’t worry, glory’s got a big edge,” I said as we made our way back toward the bar. “I think I’m still good for a few more dances and another drink or two.”

“Okay, cool. Are you really okay with going home after this?”

“I’m more than okay. Why, you’re not a serial killer or something?”

“No, definitely not,” Ben laughed. “Just don’t want there to be any pressure.”

“I think a little pressure in the right places is good.” I grinned, laying a hand on Ben’s upper arm as I leaned over the bar and ordered another gin and tonic.

“Bud Light, thanks,” Ben requested.

“All right, so I know you like Gaga,” I said as we sat down at a table. “What else?”

“Well, let me clarify, I’d probably never actually go to a Lady Gaga concert. Or buy one of her CDs or something. But it’s kinda fun. I guess I listen to a lot of different stuff. Classic rock mostly, some eighties New Wave. You?”

“Anything I can dance to. And some old music too, when I want to chill out. Old jazz, you know?”

“Cool, me too. Sometimes I really get into that old music. What kind of work do you do?”

I smiled. “I help make sure blushing brides have the happiest day of their lives for their wedding… by not killing them before they get to the altar. Usually.” About that time, I decided I really liked Ben’s deep laugh.

“So you’re a wedding coordinator?”

“Pretty much. I consider myself a wedding ‘guide,’ because I feel like I do a lot more hand-holding of the brides than most coordinators. Part planner, part therapist, really.”

“Did you do this for Serge and Jin?” Ben asked, gesturing around the Gilded-Age-meets-sanctity ballroom.

“Happily, no. I decline and refer when someone I know asks. Much like sex, it’s really not the kind of thing you can do for friends if you value the friendship. What do you do?”

“Contracting, development. Well, I own a development company, to be exact.”

I shook my head and chuckled. Too perfect. “Well, Dante clocked you. He saw you across the room and asked who the construction worker was.”

“Kind of. It’s really obvious?” Ben looked at his hands and brushed them off on his thighs.

“Just your build. You’re rugged. You don’t look dusty or anything.”

Ben grinned. “I do try to wash regularly.”

“You’ll love my shower,” I said. Cheeky me.

“I think I’m looking forward to it. After another dance?”

“Let’s do it.” I jumped up and pulled Ben out to the floor to dance, with almost half the other guests, to “Firework.”

By the time the song finished, I was wearing a broad smile that probably advertised the fact I planned on getting fucked very soon. I just barely remembered it would be impolite to leave without congratulating Serge and Jin—and thanking them for not hiring me to do their wedding. I wasn’t about to bother alerting Dante that I was leaving with Ben unless we happened to pass him on the way out. I didn’t want to waste another minute getting Ben back to my place.

“Do you know the East End?” I asked as we headed out to the parking lot of the old Priory Hotel on the North Shore.

“I know how to get there, basically. Major roads and stuff.”

“Okay, I’m on Highland Avenue. Easiest way from here is usually 28 to Highland Park and then stay on Negley Avenue into Shadyside. You can follow me up or I can drive and drop you back here whenever.”

“I’ll follow. Oh… can I get your digits, in case we get separated?”

“You can get ’em, but I’m kinda hoping you might use them for more than just ‘if we get separated,’” I said, taking Ben’s offered cell phone and typing in my number.

When Ben accepted his phone back, he immediately pressed the Call button so his number would appear on my caller ID. “Now you have mine too, to use for more than just ‘if we get separated.’”