We ended up at this funky, candle-lit (too dark, actually) place with ringlet-haired waitresses wearing patchouli and a large vegetarian selection.
The important thing about the dinner I should relay is not anything to do with the food or what we talked about or anything like that, of course, but the fact that I FINALLY realized that, hey, if I played my cards right the possibility existed that I might be able to sleep with someone I genuinely liked and knew the name of.
Besides Carynne and Ziggy, I counted only one other in that category–Matthew–and I hadn’t exactly handled the end of that terribly well, but it had been okay, and I didn’t regret much.
The possibility of doing something I wouldn’t regret was exciting in and of itself. I hadn’t really decided one way or the other which was worse, being a “pervert” who fucked men for a sick thrill, or accepting a label that came with a completely different kind of baggage, even if I could be “proud” of it some day.
But with J sitting there, all smiley and warm and witty and so goddamned intimate with his questions and his answers, I thought maybe it was best to leave off theorizing until after I’d done some more field research.
Having a realization and making a decision on a course of action are two different things.
In fact, making a decision to make a decision, and actually making the decision, are two different things.
In other words, I didn’t know for sure if I wanted to or not, but I wanted the possibility, and enjoyed not knowing, for once.
The result was a long and lovely evening, where we talked and laughed and told things about our varied and sordid pasts, and ate and drank and drew things out as long as possible, such that it was close to midnight when we went back to the hotel, and sat around in the bar until maybe one a.m. and then…
And then I flashed to the possibility that maybe I still hadn’t drunk quite enough for me to be the leader here, and that I didn’t really know one way or the other what Jonathan wanted.
At the moment when this occurred to me, we were sitting at the actual bar, elbows on the wood, with our noses deep in snifters of something–I don’t remember now if it was cognac or whiskey. Something rich and dark and complicated, and J’s eyelashes looked light in comparison, a wheat-colored piece of his hair touching the outside rim of his glass while he inhaled, eyes closed. It seemed like he’d sit that way forever unless I made the first move toward seducing him.
And then I thought, whoa, what if he doesn’t want to be seduced?
My tongue burned with liquid smoke and I suppressed the urge to cough. The bartender, who I guessed to be about my age and bored, was ignoring us, his eyes on a silent television from where he rested at an inside corner, not even pretending to polish glasses. I imagined the scene from his point of view and couldn’t guess what he might think. Decadent rock and roll types, maybe. So I tried to imagine it from J’s point of view. What did he see when he looked at me? What did he want? I imagined myself successfully seducing him and then finding out later that he hadn’t wanted that.
My own nose in my drink, I closed my eyes, and thought, Jeezuschrist, Daron, he’s spent every waking moment with you for the past two days. How much more of a hint do you need?
I opened my eyes. J was looking at me.
I cleared my throat and said in a low voice. “I have to ask you something.”
My lips pressed slightly together as I got ready to open my mouth. The bartender chose this moment to stop ignoring us and asked if we needed anything else. “We’re fine,” I said too quickly, “just leaving.” He slid me the bill and I signed my room number on it. J raised an eyebrow and slipped what was left in his glass down his throat before standing up.
Upstairs, in the suite, alone, I tried again. We sat in the living room part, me in a big chair, him on the couch, our feet nearly touching. “I have to ask you something.”
“This is going to sound funny, possibly. But, well, it depends on how you take it.” I shook my head. “I know, that didn’t make any sense since you don’t know yet what I’m going to say.”
“You’re getting deep.” He moved to sit on the overstuffed arm of my chair.
“Damn right I am. So promise me you’ll be quiet and listen to this whole thing before you speak, before you answer, okay? For my own peace of mind.”
“Anything for you, D.”
I did not dwell on the implications of that statement. “Okay, here goes. I really want to ask you something, but I want to clarify it first. Well, first the question is, um, how would you feel about, ah shit how to put this…” I held up my hand to keep him from breaking in. “I want to ask you if I should be seducing you. But,”–that sounded loud–“I don’t want you to think that my asking you is necessarily a first step to actually seducing, if you don’t want to be. So I want to ask you how you’d feel about it, but without that actually being a start to me doing so. I mean, I know that flirting and all that stuff’s a game, and that it’s important, but I want to kind of call time out for a second, and have the fact that I’m calling a time out not be a factor in influencing your feelings.” Jeezus, the more I talked the less sense it sounded like it made. The fumes had gone to my head for sure.
He had a happy smirk on his face and he looked up, looked down, looked up. “Can I speak now?”
“Oh, um, yeah.”
“You are seriously one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met.”
“You’re making me blush.”
“You started blushing long before this, D.”
We sat there looking at each other for a few long moments, while I suppressed the urge to take him by the hand and start sucking his fingers or something equally corny but hard to keep from doing.
And then I heard the chunk of a card key in the door lock. Don’t ask me why it is that I could keep myself from licking J’s palm, but I couldn’t stop myself from standing up and taking a few steps away from him when the door opened.
The bleached lock of Ziggy’s hair shone goldly in the hallway light under blacker strands that hung down like limp fingers. He came to a halt with his eyes on us, like I somehow knew he would. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
See, that’s Ziggy in a nutshell–always asking you a question that you can’t answer. If I answered it “yes” or if I answered “no” it’d still sound wrong. And saying nothing would be just as bad.
Fortunately, Jonathan was quicker on the uptake than me, and he said something I wouldn’t have expected. “We were just wondering where you were.”
Ziggy smiled and gave me a sideways look. “Oh yeah?”
J leaned against the chair back. “Yeah, we went all over the city tonight but we got to wondering what everyone else did. See anything fun?”
Ziggy sat down on the couch and started pulling his boots off. “Bunch of us went down to some club, I forget the name already. But it was kind of dull so I went down the street to a dance club.” He shrugged. He kicked the loose boot off one foot and it hit the carpet with a thud. The second one followed and he leaned back, looking relaxed.
There was a knock at the connecting door from one of the side rooms then and I opened it to find Bart standing there. “I wondered if you guys were in here.”
“Nobody but us in here, nobody but us,” Ziggy sang.
I don’t need to describe, probably, another night partying on the road. Yeah, sure, J and I could have probably found another place to go if we had really been sure that we wanted to. But there was no way I was going to come around with that question again now, and he didn’t do anything else to indicate one way or the other, and well, there were other pleasures to be had, too, passing a joint and drinking and jamming with Bart on two guitars. In fact, that’s the part of the evening I enjoyed most, though I remember it the least, Bart and I sitting in chairs by the window, trading licks and playing songs, some of ours, some of other folks’, and singing quietly, and sometimes just picking a couple of chords and going with them until our fingers were too tired to keep it up any more.
J watched and listened with an open kind of joy on his face that made me hopeful he wasn’t disappointed, either.
(Tomorrow: a new liner note, in which ctan explains what “AOR” is and daron asks for some recommendations…)