It was a Sunday evening in February 1985, and a bunch of us guys decided to go out for a drink after the Dignity service. Back then, about eighty or ninety people would show up in the basement of a local community center early Sunday evening. It was one of many organizations I got involved in after my personal liberation, six months previously. I had no intentions of doing anything but have a drink or two, chat with the guys and go home.
We decided to check out the new gay bar in town. The place was called Bears. It was a restaurant bar with a congenial, comfortable, neighborhood atmosphere. Not noisy or rowdy or cruisy - well, at least not on a Sunday night. About fifteen guys were sitting at the bar when we walked in. Norm and I took seats at the table next to the bar. Tom and Brad joined us when they came in and then so did a few others. Guys came in, others left. I had been checking out the traffic, but must have missed seeing this one guy come in. When I first noticed him, I glanced twice. I assumed he was with someone.
I motioned to Norm to check out the guy in the denim vest. He was about twenty-five, dark-haired and slender, maybe 135 pounds, about my height. He had dark, brown eyes, hair brushed back, a thick mustache extending down past the corners of his mouth, almost to his chin.
Norm had already noticed him. “Oh, you too. Yeah, he’s the best looking guy in the place.”
“I’m really new to all this. What are you supposed to do? I’ve never cruised before, not really. Besides, I’m shy. Well, that’s half of it anyway, being shy. But the other half is, you never know what you’re picking up, when you pick someone up.” Norm just laughed and said, “Yeah, Sal, you’ll learn.”
I was still glancing over at the denim vest, who was now at the video game table. He looked over in my direction a couple of times and I knew he registered my interest. I was getting antsy. “I wish I had the …” “balls.” Norm interjected, as if on queue. “To just go over there and do it.” I finished my thought as I got up and walked over to the bar.
My move to the bar was made without any plan. Like other moves of late, I found myself acting, doing something without analyzing… without thinking myself into inaction. I moved to the bar even though my eyes were fixed on the guy at the video game. To stay seated where I was would have been to accept being stuck in my frustration. So I moved to the bar and greeted the bartender as if I had known him for years – weeks at least. We chatted a bit and I think he thought I was coming on to him because he wouldn’t let me pay for the drink I ordered.
I guess this new attitude of “whada ya got to lose?” or “what the hell” seemed to go along with being newly out and liberated. I’m tired of watching life go by. I want in. I want to check some things out for myself. I know enough to take something for what it is. And the number I wanted to cruise walked back to the bar next to me. He mentioned his game score to the bartender like it was an ongoing conversation. That gave me an opening, so I asked, “What’s the game?”
I had to acknowledge my inadequacy with regard to video games, but my number was definitely interested. No doubt about it. He invited me to play a round of “Moussey”. I never play video games. I’m just not good at it. But I didn’t even hesitate. If playing “Moussey” was part of the ritual, I was game. We both walked over to the game table with our drinks in hand. I asked him to explain the game and we gave it a try.
It was a short session, especially when it was my turn. “Game Over.” We introduced ourselves, “Sal,” I said. “Bryan,” he said. “Just moved here from Maine.” He lit a cigarette and tried to light my swizzle stick which I had been sucking on as a substitute for the Marlboros I had given up less than a week before. It was great! He was as distracted as I was!
Unfortunately, it was getting late. Bryan said he had to be at work early and got up to go to the men’s room. I think he expected me to follow. He came back and sat down for a minute or two, then made the motion indicating he was ready to leave. I did the same and we walked out together. Shit, I didn’t want to let him get away.
He asked where I was headed. “Home,” I said, “eventually. And you?”
“Home, but I am horney,” Bryan teased.
“Do you live alone?” I asked.
“No, I live with my lover, but we have a pretty open relationship. We just don’t bring anyone home.”
“You can come to my place if you don’t mind a twenty minute drive.”
“No, it’s kinda late. You wanna duck into the ally way for something quick?” Bryan offered.
“Not my style,” I came back, “That’s no fun.”
“It can be.” he tempted.
“Well, no. Maybe some other time.” I knew there would be no other time. I just said, “Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“Well, take care.” he said. I repeated his parting line, “Yeah, take care.”
I got in my car. “Shit,” I said to myself, but with a definite congratulatory tone. I had cruised and had come ‘that close’ to scoring. I was shaking . I was so revved up and excited, I probably couldn’t have gotten into the moment anyhow. On the job training. I was a bit frustrated but not particularly disappointed. So what? I didn’t score. But it was definitely flattering. “But, man, I could go for a few cigarettes.”