When we rolled into Albuquerque I was ready to not be cooped up in the bus anymore, but I wasn’t looking forward to being cooped up in my room either. And honestly I needed a break from a night of socializing the Nomad way, which even if it sometimes involved getting on a stage always involved heavy drinking. My head needed a rest, anyway.
So after putting my stuff in the room I dithered, and ended up wandering the hallway, and at one point Clarice stuck her head out her door and said, “You keep that up you’re going to wear a trough in that carpet.”
“How did you know it was me?”
“How did I know…” She gave me a look like it was obvious. “You and Frannie, both pacers, can’t ever sit still. You ever listen to how your feet sound when they hit the floor? Get your ass in here.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I went into their room and found them in mid-primp. “Going out tonight?”
“Mm hmm,” Fran said. “You wanna come with? We’re going to a family place.”
“Like the barbecue place?”
They both thought I was being funny and laughed and then looked at each other with crooked eyebrows when they realized I’d been serious. Clarice tapped me on the shoulder. “Pardon me for asking, but we are under the impression that you are one hundred percent homosexual. Is that right?”
“Yeah, of course,” I said, trying to make the connection between the question and what they were saying. Family. Oh. “Wait. You mean you’re going to a, what, gay bar tonight?”
It was the way they laughed, so open and free, so hearty and genuine, that made me realize both how close they felt to me and how close they were to each other. So if you had “April 28” in the betting pool on how long it would take me to figure out that Fran and Clarice were a couple, you win.
“Oh baby, you should see your face,” Fran said, and patted my cheek. “Something tells me you could use a night off with your own kind.”
“Okay, I agree, but does being gay mean I’m automatically some ‘kind?'” This was something that bugged me regularly.
“He grew up sheltered,” Clarice said to Fran, as if excusing what I said. Then, to me, “You need to get out more.”
“Fine. I’m going with you fine ladies. Won’t that confuse the issue?”
“Not if you’re not confused,” Fran said. “Which I know may be a tall order.”
They continued to make gentle fun of me and made me upscale from the plain T-shirt and jeans I was in to something more rock-star appropriate: a red T-shirt with the Sam Black Church logo on it, my black jeans with the knees and crotch almost worn out, and my leather jacket instead of the denim one.
Then they took me to a place I might not have found by myself. It was basically the equivalent of an Elks Lodge or a VFW Post, but for gay people. So I had to pay an “annual membership fee” (I think it was fifteen bucks? Maybe not even that much.) and then the drinks at the bar were dirt cheap. Because it was a “private club” I guess the rules were different, or more lax, compared to running a regular bar or night club. Or maybe it was just safer for the patrons. I don’t know. What I do know is that everyone was friendly, and it didn’t seem to matter who you were as long as you were there. There were drag queens and lesbians in motorcycle jackets and twinks and clones and bears.
And me. There wasn’t anyone else like me, exactly, but they were right, I felt a lot more comfortable (I hesitate to say I felt “at home” because that’s so loaded) than I expected to. I felt like for the first time in weeks I didn’t have a bicycle flag attached to me with the words “the gay one” on it. Once I was surrounded with queerfolk it was like some invisible pressure had lifted–so invisible I hadn’t even noticed it until it was gone.
As it happens, I found myself the object of a fair number of smoldering yet furtive looks from a guy who I judged to be in his mid-thirties. It took me two drinks to get up the courage to go talk to him, and then another drink to get up the courage to tell Fran and Clarice I was going to go back to the hotel without them.
Yeah, no way was I going to this guy’s place, alone, and he’d flat out told me he’d been busted for giving head in the bathroom once before. Fran and Clarice insisted on meeting him and getting the okay from the bartender before letting us go–I think partly just to bust my balls, but partly to give the signal that someone was looking out for me. I guess the idea was that if he was an axe murderer, he’d lose interest and move on to more lonesome prey at that point.
His name was Ben and he was very nice. Even when we got to the door of my room and it was very obvious from the sounds coming through it that I wasn’t the only one getting some that night. Flip’s gal du jour was a screamer. Also the Do Not Disturb sign was on the doorknob.
“Um, whoops,” I said, completely unprepared for this contingency.
“Maybe they’re almost done?” Ben suggested optimistically. “This place have a bar and lounge? We could talk a little more.”
“Let’s see if they’re still open.” We went down to the lobby and no, the bar wasn’t still serving, but there was a house phone there so I rang the room.
When Flip didn’t pick up the first time, I hung up and tried again. That time he picked it up. “Be…ngggh…done…soon…” he said, clearly still in the midst of the act.
“How’d you know that was what I was calling about?”
He grunted and murmured something to his paramour, then said, “Didn’t we agree two rings for roommate alert?”
“Did we?” Maybe we had and I’d forgotten. “Um, anyway. I’m in the lobby with my, uh, that is, um, maybe I should ask to go to his place inst–”
“No, no. Don’t worry. Couple more minutes and then we’ll switch places, capeesh?”
“Okay.” I hung up the phone and said to Ben, “Sorry about that. We didn’t both expect to get lucky on the same night.”
“Not a problem,” Ben said, with an understanding smile. “If you’re really anxious to be quick, I saw there’s a men’s room on the other side of the lounge entrance.”
I suspect maybe Ben liked semi-public sex. I didn’t, except when I was desperate enough to convince myself. I was trying not to be desperate. “I’d like to hold out for an actual bed.”
“Sure, sure. I do really love being up against a wall, though.”
“I promise there are walls in the room,” I said. “Four of them, even.”
Five if you count the one in the shower, which was the one I fucked him against once Flip vacated.
Ben was polite and didn’t overstay his welcome, and Flip came back in due course.
“Was that okay?” I asked him. “I didn’t want to weird you out.”
Flip lay down on top of his rumpled sheets, still wearing cargo shorts and a T-shirt. “What weirds me out is that a guy in his early twenties like you doesn’t have more sex. Although I guess I can understand being careful.”
“Don’t be shy. Just put the Do Not Disturb out and if I need to reach you or let you know I want to get in, I’ll ring twice.”
“Perfect. I’ll do the same.” I was lying under the covers of my bed, still damp and clean from the shower, feeling that blissful post-sex languor all the way down to my toes. But I guess my face was still confused-looking.
“What?” Flip asked.
“Nothing. I guess I’m just not used to straight guys not being weirded out by gay sex. Like, that’s literally the thing that freaks them the most, usually. The entire idea of what two guys do together.”
Flip snorted. “I sucked a couple of dicks in college, you know. Had mine sucked a lot, too. Frat hazing. You just get over it.”
“Frat hazing. Pledges sometimes have to suck the dicks of the upper classmen in front of everybody. They do that everywhere.” He made another dismissive snort. “It’s how I know for sure I’m straight. Felt good while it lasted, but not something I need to ever do again.”
I was pretty sure frats “everywhere” did not use oral sex for hazing but I didn’t know if Flip was just trying to downplay it or if he really didn’t know. I decided it was best to just graciously accept this confession as a form of solidarity. “Cool. All right. Two rings. Got it.”
His only reply was a gentle snore.
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(We had a database error which deleted the original of this post and the comments. Here’s a duplicate of the post, and I’m recreating the original comments by hand, via copypaste from an old version -ctan)