If in other towns I’d had trouble because there was nowhere to go, in San Francisco I almost had the opposite problem. It was hard to decide where to go for all the choices. In the end I took a cab to Castro Street where, even with the night chill in the air, there were people on the street, spilling out of late night bookstores and cafes, and sauntering to the disco-techno beat leaking out of bars.
In another city or in another neighborhood the same break beats and remixes might have poured forth from a venue with limousined and fur-coated women waiting at the door, or club kids with torn jeans and Crayon-hair. But with evidence of neither in sight, and men in T-shirts one size too small all around, the incessant beat was a siren song for me.
I had no doubt in my mind what I would find through those doors.
I picked a smallish place. Pool tables, a long bar, glass cases with some kind of local baseball trophies (a gay baseball league…?) in it, two pinball machines, no dance floor. A long narrow place, sandwiched between a restaurant on one side and a hardware store on the other. I somehow expected the floor inside to slope like the street outside. Various pairs of eyes watched me as I made my way from the door toward the back and to an open spot at the bar.
I do not have a “type.” I had so rarely had a choice of options, that I had never thought much about what I liked. I got a Rolling Rock and slipped up onto a stool still warm from the man who had sat there before me. With both elbows behind me I scanned the crowd. I rotated the Rock slowly in my right hand, the texture of the raised painted lettering under my fingers like Braille as I divined my future. The complicated codes of eye contact seemed the same here as elsewhere.
A man with hair that was either black or well-gelled brown, in a white tank top, jeans, and combat boots came over and bought himself a drink and talked to me while waiting for the bartender to deliver it.
“Hey, I haven’t seen you here before.” His mustache reminded me of Matthew’s.
“First time, here,” I replied, wondering if that was a variation of ‘do you come here often.’ “I’m from Boston.”
“Boston, great town. I have a lot of friends who moved here from there. You like it there?”
“Yeah, it’s okay. I used to be kind of weirded out by it, but I’m used to it now. I’m originally from New York.” I pulled on my beer and glanced at the crowd occasionally. “Where are you from?”
“Nowhere,” he said, taking the drink from the bartender and leaving bills on the damp wood. He turned around so we both faced outward. “I’m from here, now. I live right around the corner.”
So. The rest of the conversation was about as clichéd as the first part and the only part where I got a little balked was when he asked me my name… and I told him. First names only, of course. His was Paul.
Things got a little funny when we reached his place and his roommate, who was watching TV in their shared living room when we came in, did a double take at me like he thought maybe he recognized me… I just kind of waved as Paul hurried me through to his bedroom without introducing me. Which was probably a blessing because by then I was anxious to get on with it, and didn’t want to deal with either stopping for a conversation with a third person nor getting into the kind of psycho stuff that I imagined could ensue if Paul got hung up on me being “somebody.”
I filed that eventuality away for future pondering and insomnia and let him undress me instead.
I learned that I was Paul’s type. He liked short, boyish men who–with his broad chest and longer arms and legs–he could kind of envelop from behind. He told me this in short, choppy sentences in between thrusts and ‘oh yeahs’ and grunts. His bed shuddered and squeaked and the motion made me feel weightless, like I was sinking and floating at the same time.
And yeah, I forgot all about my previous anxieties for a while, which was, maybe what I had really been looking for.
After we were finished we lay in bed and he smoked a cigarette and I wished I had a little of that fine Colorado weed. The contact high and nicotine buzz of lying close with him felt good. He smoked some kind of all-natural cigarettes, in a green package with white letters on the side that read “The next best thing to rolling your own.” The smell was rich and almost a little sweet, much better than the usual.
And then I disengaged myself from the sheets and started getting dressed.
“You got somewhere to be?” he said sleepily.
“Not exactly,” I said, my jeans on and me fiddling with the pockets to get them straight on the inside.
“I don’t want you to think I’m kicking you out now. There’s plenty of room if you want to crash here.” His arm stretched across the space I’d just left. A mustached Adam reaching across the ceiling of the Sistine.
“Nah, I should get back,” I answered, sounding, I thought, convincingly casual and non-anxious about it. I tried to come up with something to add, like: I’ve got some business to take care of tomorrow, but something that vague bordered on a lie. I put on my shirt and picked up my jacket.
“Suit yourself, sweetcheeks. Thanks for a lovely evening.”
“You, too.” I leaned over him on the bed and kissed him on the lips, and he tasted salty and smoky and good.
The TV was dark in the living room, the roommate nowhere in sight. I got myself a glass of water from the tap in their kitchen and guzzled it down, then left the empty glass upside down at the edge of their already very-full dish drainer. Out on the street things had gotten quieter, a few couples walking up or down, the restaurants and bookstores dark, the all-night diner on the corner spilling yellow light onto the sidewalk.
I stood in front of it, waiting for an empty cab to troll by, writing a song in my mind about the fog glowing under a hidden moon, cracked with black fissures of sky.