Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Story 5 "Atlanta"

Often I don’t know what to do after my shifts. Going home is an expensive cab ride, where once home, one has to be sure that is where they want to be. That’s how living in a city without a car works. It’s something we get used to and the reason cities seem to have more happily inebriated people. It’s cause we can without worrying about who we will trick into being our designated driver. Even if you have a car, good luck finding parking. If one goes home, once there, the question will be, “now what?” Being a Leo, I often yearn to be out, to be seen, to meet new and interesting people. I hope to one day meet the love of my life or at least make a new friend. Most of the friends that I have made within the past year of living in San Francisco, from on campus life, all seem to lead such different lives from my own. If it isn’t dropping out for rehab (no one likes quitters), or taking too heavy of a school load, having a significant other or being stuck in their own quest to put together the pieces of their own lives, it is something else. I am never really free to hang out with them because I work every weekend and evening that “normal” people are free. I call their schedules the schedule of the living. My current one at the bar schedule is that of the dead, vampires, and those stupid infomercials with Tony Little, and “Girls Gone Wild” commercials. Maybe it is the fact that my friends don’t have the same intrigue with figuring out the gay world that I do. Being straight, and used to it, many of them understandably don’t have an interest in breaking the codes that San Francisco’s gay-world behold.

Finishing work at my prior service industry jobs, the shifts are often followed with a meal, hanging out, a drink, a cigarette, and then eventually sleep. The bar quickly has become a family member, much like a television becomes an only child’s close friend. It’s my family member who doesn’t have to give you the weekly Jew update that my mother has to give me weekly, “I know he’s a killer, but he’s Jewish, single and has some money.”

My coworkers in some ways are becoming the siblings I never had. Being an only child, I don’t know what it’s like to have brothers and sisters. I always dreamed of being a part of a large family much like that of “Family Ties.” Once I had a dream that I was on “Growing Pains” and lived in Mike’s apartment above the house. That dream had the makings of a good porn or D-rated horror movie. I digress back to the bar. Here everyone is that family that I never had growing up. Those behind the bar with me, just seem to get it. At the end of every shift, it’s always the same thing. I clock out and always wonder what will be next. It’s that same feeling I get when flipping channels hoping something cool will pop on but eventually settle on an infomercial for a food slicer. I clock out and realize that most my friends now are the people working. I then feel obliged to hangout with my family and have a drink because one mustn’t be rude. I end up staying the night and drinking enough to embarrass myself but not so much that I do things that make me look like a complete idiot. It’s that fine line between happy drunk and turning into Courtney Love.

My new bothers and sister, educate me on how to drink smart to the best of their abilities, while at the same time getting me blasted drunk. They also teach me that “well” drinks, are now to be drinks of the past, only to drink in emergencies. I chat with them, while the served me drinks and I sail down on a burning boat to oblivion. I am told that other gays can smell my “minty-new gay scent,” as James puts it. I am fresh meat and have no clue how to cover it up. No matter what I do, they all seem to know, all the gay men I encounter. As I stay lingering at the bar stirring my straw in a glass filled with melted ice and remnants of a vodka soda, I chat about local gossip with a bartender friend, I would also observe the crowd. Being here, I feel like prey in the wild. I feel that there are predators watching me, yet I can’t really tell who, it’s just a feeling. I always stand there hoping that someone will come up to me or that someone worth my time approaches me. I wait for someone to strike up a conversation with me. All who come up to me seem to have something off about them, but I find it good social practice. I study them, watch their “moves” and then digest. I have never really even been on a date, let alone do I have any idea of how to talk to another guy or really how to flirt with them. To make a long story short, reading between the lines in this regard, is not my forte.

One night, I am alone chatting with my friend Michael at his bar station, also known as a well. We are just chewing the fat about random bar gossip, then his being, starts walking up to me out of the shadows. Michael being the married man that he is decided it only fitting to whisper a bit of advice into my ear: “go get it for the team, be a slut for all of us, what I wouldn’t give to be single for one day”… Then, as this guy comes closer, Michael changed his tune to. “Hey you can at least put a bag over his head and stare at his hot body.” I still don’t really know what Michael was talking about since I am oblivious and in my own world. Then, he tapped my shoulder.

The man at my shoulder side is one who was trying to defy gravity, physics and deceive my intelligence. He is wearing a low cut, tight V-neck with a low hanging chain weighed down by a heavy diesel pendant. His eyes have no wrinkles around them, in-fact his face is completely absent of expression. His chest/pectoral “muscles” are nearly as big as Gina’s, but obvious implants matching his horrendous ass implants. His dark fake tan and absence of any body or facial hair only make me more uncomfortable. He opens his mouth, which is the only part of him covered in wrinkles, although he tries to cover it in shinny lip shit. Now, the noise came out of him. It’s one that pierces the my ears over all the music playing in the background. It is so high-pitched that I can’t understand any of it. It’s like the sirens from Greek mythological tales. His subtle lisp and use of the word “honey” is the only way I can tell that he is presumably of some sort of Latin descent. Then he reaches down and pinches my butt cheek…. Catching me by of surprise, I accidentally spill the drink in my hand on his 7 jeans that are so tight that his ass was leaking out of them trying to get air. Quickly his high-pitched siren goes off once more, I assume to curse me out. Then out of now where, he unexpectedly slaps me on the right cheek, snaps and says something in his high-pitched, Portuguese that I assume was an insult and then the man vanishes back to the shadows. I am so stunned an utterly confused by tonight’s events and the fact that a grown man slapped me, I drink more.

A few drinks later I am still at Michael’s bar station. I am sipping the concoction that he has made me. It seems to be made out of gasoline, not that it matters by now. Then I noticed this guy a few feet away from me leaning against the other side of Michael’s station. He has that look like the weight of the world is leaning on his back. He sees me staring and begins to edge towards me. He looked about my age, a foot taller, with hair much like that of Kurt Cobain in 1990. He is a stranger in a bar full of people who all while different, have are all lonesome strangers. He asks me if I will like to drink with him. Being the show off Leo that I am, I signaled to Michael to come over. Michael hands us two shots, which appear to materialize out of nowhere. I smile at this boy point at the shots. I then tell him that it looks like he would have to get the next round. Michael, being a good bartender, plays his favorite role, as cupid. We don’t connect for the reason of love exactly, it is more so through connection of needing someone who will listen.

This boy, I won’t lie, his name escapes me. I can’t seem to remember his actual name after chatting with him for a few hours. All that I do know is that he has a heavy southern accent and mentions that he was from Atlanta. Since I have don’t feel comfortable to ask his name yet again he will be known in my memories as “Atlanta” forever. Atlanta is tall, slender, white, average-looking, with long big curls, all complimented with manners, something that seems to be rare. He is to the point in conversation, unlike passive aggressive San Francisco, who can’t speak up for themselves until their lives depend on it. The fact that he gives me the time of day and cares is all that matters at this point.

Soon Atlanta and I have been chatting for about 8 hours or so, time is an alcohol induced blur by now. He is looking cuter, but so do most of the people in the bar that I normally think are repulsive, the drink is an evil friend. We keep on buying each other drink after shot, after drink. He then brushes the long hair off my forehead and tells me that he thinks I am beautiful. Rewind, what he actually does, is peel a long frizzy curl stuck to my face off of my now sweaty forehead, wipe his hand and then tell me he thinks I’m beautiful. This is the first time that I have heard this. I almost start laughing, being the cynic that I am. I am the type of person that always laughs at the wrong moments. I’m like Mary Tyler Moore in that episode where they are at a clown’s funeral and can’t stop laughing. I know, the references can’t get gayer can they? I don’t know what to do or say, so I punched him lightly on the arm and start giggling with a smirk of confusion on my face. He then leans in and gave me a kiss on the cheek. By this point I am intrigued and still unsure of how to react, I can’t help but still hyperventilate/giggle. I had never seen someone look into my eyes the way he did then and be intrigued the way he seemed to be. He then asked if we could get some food.

As we left the bar, Michael yells something obscene to us, as any healthy gay man would. It’s something along the lines of, “I want photos, details and maybe the video!” I have never at this point ever left a bar with a boy. I usually leave alone, walk to Walgreens, purchase a pint of ice cream and proceed to eat it while waiting for the bus because I have no patients to wait and eat my feelings. I’m not sure of what’s next really. It’s more that I am not sure of what I am, feeling now. I am excited, almost as much as I was when I finally got a ninja turtle of my own, way after they where cool. As we reach one block from the place where we had met, I am in a drunken snooper and embarrassed over the fact that I full on walked into a bush 5 seconds ago. He then suggests that we skip food and go to my house. Very direct Atlanta. Shockingly direct. That is a huge difference with gay and straight men. Gay men are more specific because our attention spans are much shorter than other’s I think. I suggest his. He then tells me that he has nowhere to stay and truly enjoys my company. He then says that he doesn’t want to take advantage of me apparently, but thinks that I am a nice guy and wants to have all the cards on the table. When people say that they want to have “all the cards on the table,” it’s refreshing, but one of those things that are hard to really believe.
It’s not like a crazy fucker is going to be like, “oh and here is the card that tells you just how nuts I am, here is the infidelity card, and oh yeah when I introduce you to people I will refer to you as my friend and make you feel like an idiot.” No one does that.

All I can think about in my drunken-slushy heard while he says this, is “lets get ready for a load of bull shit.” He then goes on and says that I don’t have to take him with me. There is a long pause that seems to last forever. Now we are near the bus stop at 18th and Castro where all the taxis are lined up waiting for passengers. He then kisses me again, his way of sprinkling fairy dust to put me in a trance, which is pretty easy now since even my sweat is pure vodka at this point. He then says that he isn’t expecting sex, just a cuddle and company. Luckily, the cynic in me is playing King’s Cup and not paying attention. Being alone really in the city at this point, for some reason is a bizarre concept, yet good excuse to take him. It’s will sound even better retelling the story.

In the cab, all the cards where being strewn on the metaphorical table, he tells me something else that takes the night for another turn. He says that I should know that he may or may not be positive. I don’t understand what that means. I can’t seem to connect the dots whether he is talking about his mood or HIV status. If it is HIV status, how could he not know? I then, stupidly ask him what he means. He then says that he has just found out that his ex, who he had moved out to Cali with, a much older LA/WeeHo guy has been cheating on him left and right. He has had no idea that the guy was fucking around on him, so the story goes. His man had just yesterday, texted him to deal Atlanta the card that every gay men fears. He tells Atlanta that he tested HIV positive and that he should know. At this moment, it dawns on me how young this kid is. It’s like one minute I am walking around empty handed and now carrying a bag of bricks right next to me. Atlanta is only 6 months older than myself. This thought soon turns me into a 3-year old boy. He out of nowhere begins to cry, this time I can’t laugh my way out of this awkward conversation. I can’t pretend to be naive or simply leave this guy at this moment. I begin to hug him and cry myself. Atlanta, then goes on to explain that he has moved to LA with the guy who was is enough to be his father, yet has treated him better than any relative ever has. His family back home of course disowned him for being a “nasty, fudge-packing, immoral” member of the gays who is on the way to hell. He’s been on his own since 17. He has so much to figure out. He is alone. Why would his parents think that anyone chooses this? Atlanta has a stuffy nose now and says that he fled to San Fran because he had always wanted to see the “gayborhood.” He needs to get out of LA to get over his only friend/lover, father figure has ever loved and now thrown him out like garbage for someone younger. Atlanta’s southern drawl makes it hard to decode the entirety of the story, but that is the gist, or so he claims. By now I have stopped crying, looking down at the little boy in my arms and channeled my mother. I tell him what my mother had told my aunt when she explained about divorcing my father. I explain what women have known for centuries, men are men, no matter how much we wanted to love them, they still have the potential to be pigs and sleep with anything that has a pulse.

Atlanta does end up staying over. Nothing happens though. I wake up in the morning with my mouth tasting the way Lysol smells. The hangover is set to kick in soon. He is in my arms. Nothing else matters though. Why me? Why him? What to make of our meeting? These questions now seem irrelevant and unnecessary to answer. Atlanta is asleep and soon would be gone. He says that he will soon be on the next train back to Atlanta with just the cloths on his back. We can exchange email addresses, numbers or something. For some reason that doesn’t cross either of our minds. He kisses me passionately while holding me tight. He then thanks me for listening and giving him a good time and not in the “hooker way,” he says. He is off to Atlanta to put his life together, never to be heard from again.

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