Archive for December 2003

BIG MOUTH

December 31, 2003

Big Mouth

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Big Mouth. No, no, not I…

I don’t have a big mouth. In fact, my mouth verges on the freakishly small. My wisdom teeth were extracted, I wore braces for years, and still my teeth poke out at unnatural angles, competing for space in their tiny home. As I child I secretly cherished my orthodontist’s advice: “Don’t let anyone tell you you have a big mouth” because, truth be told, everyone else was accusing me of having a very big mouth indeed. The metaphor was not lost on me.

I talked constantly, so quickly I was difficult to understand, and about every subject I could think of. Being the youngest in a very smart and knowledgeable family I guess I felt the only way I could compete was to continually spout information. About half of this information was factually inaccurate. Worse was my habit of allowing personal details about others I had no business sharing to pour uncontrollably out of myself. I could look forward to at least one embarrassing moment a day being told I didn’t know what I was talking about or that I should mind my own damn business. Years of these moments may not have helped my self-esteem, but I did learn, painfully slowly, what information was appropriate and accurate enough to be allowed to leave my mouth for the ears of other members of the human race.

Dark-Man-Sitting at Eagle

Of course, this all pertains to recent events at the Eagle. Can’t all life’s lessons be learned at a leather bar?

It was a Sunday evening. The patio was sparsely populated and, though technically outdoors, overheated. My esteemed colleague (with a head cold) was uncharacteristically quiet. So, with my colleague not needing my attention, I echolocated a conversation among three lads on the other side of the patio.

One of the three – seated – was a dark-haired, well-put-together guy in his mid-thirties with a mild voice that nonetheless carried very well.The shorter of the two standing fellows was sharing his concern over information he had just acquired about his best friend. It seems the best friend’s boyfriend had been “kicking other cans” behind the best friend’s back. He was both upset at the nature of his information and concerned about what to do with it. Nonetheless, he didn’t seem to be actively lobbying for advice from the other two.

Nothing could have stopped Dark-Man-Sitting from throwing in his two cents in, though. He seemed to be the type who waited for just such an opportunity to advise the less aware on how to lead a good gay life.

“Don’t say anything. Let the him live his life – all of it – even the bad stuff,” he said, soon followed by “Everyone fools around. He’ll eventually figure it out.”

Much discussion followed on how the friend would become the bad guy in this situation, on how he should butt out and not ruin his friendship with hurtful information. I thought the slaughter of messengers bearing bad news stopped in the Middle Ages.

“Bigmouth Strikes Again”

See, here’s where I feel like a big-mouthed little kid again. I would most definitely tell my best friend about his boyfriend’s philandering. I would be as kind and gentle as possible. I might even confront the sonofabitch boyfriend and try to strong-arm him into telling his significant other himself. Dark-Man-Sitting has it all wrong. We “friends” are there to help our buddies through the bad times, to protect them and their honor against people who mean to hurt them.

Sure, maybe we’d suffer a little wrath from the cuckolded friend. The guy’s gonna be embarrassed and hurt. But imagine how your friend is going to feel six months down the road when he finds out the truth, including the fact that his best friend knew all along and said nothing. I think I could endure one more “you don’t know what you’re talking about” or “mind your own business” in this case.

I’m glad I’m no longer a zit-faced teen with more braces on his teeth than discretion. I’m proud of my ability to keep secrets and consider what I’m about to say before unleashing it on the world. But even as a teen I knew what kind of advice, and advisors to avoid. I thought I had left the cliquey wicked useless wisdom of high-school bitches behind me. But there she was again, dispensing her self serving advice, a Heather dressed darkly, and comfortably seated.

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Christmas Past.

December 29, 2003

I have no concept of what Christmas means anymore or even what it’s really for. But I’m not as cynical as I used to be. I know that the giving of gifts is required, that being courteous to those close you is the way to behave. That the Day belongs to children. I’m pretty sure it’s more a gathering than a celebration, or at least the celebration of a gathering.

In my case I’m lucky because I have a family to gather together with. I can’t stand, no matter how infuriating and dysfunctional any family might be, I can’t stand the idea of anyone having to spend Christmas alone which is strange considering I’m not really sure what the day is for.

To say that this time of year makes me anxious is an almost criminal understatement. I often become ill. I dread the drive to Ottawa to be with my family. The easily five hour drive is spent preparing myself for tragedies or confrontations that never happen. Worst is the feeling of dread at being judged by my family. As if they will all of the sudden declare “you’re a poor, gay, unaccomplished embarrassment to us all!” Such declarations would never be made in a family like mine, and never on Christmas. Besides, the person who actually said such a thing would be first vilified and then shunned. They would have dealt a catastrophic blow to to the peace and civility of Christmas – a sin far worse than being the black sheep gay son.

I guess why I get anxious doesn’t really matter in the case of this Christmas past.
I will say my family was gracious, kind and generous this Christmas. Since this is no time to be greedy, I could not possibly ask for anything more – except maybe that next Christmas I’ll be a little less anxious.

The Tragic Thing About the Miraculous M (Part II)

December 20, 2003

A great question…

I wish it were I that asked the question.It’s a good one, but my esteemed colleague always asks this particular question of our new acquaintances before I even think to. It is, by rights, his question. “So what’s a {strapping young man/ bright handsome man/clearly entertaining fellow} like you doing single?” Damn. Its such a good question and I’d forgotten to ask it again. I suppose I was still reeling from the news M had given us a couple minutes earlier.

A couple minutes earlier…

While entertaining us with his auto-biography, M also continued to visit the WC, consult the DJ and cavort with newly arrived patrons – crunching hands all the while -always trying for a laugh, or at least a smile. Meanwhile, I seemed to be lighting a continuos chain of cigarettes for him. He spoke so quickly and made so many references it became, at times, almost impossible to follow his train of thoughts. My esteemed colleague, however, is quicker than me and the conversation went on smoothly.

Turns out M didn’t have a card advertising his talents as a masseur. He didn’t need one, he was retired. But he was so young (around 40 by my estimate)… What did he do in his post retirement? How did he support himself? Well, he was currently planning to take a bunch of terminally ill children on a fantasy vacation to Disney world. But that was a volunteer position…

Wow. Imagine the good and giving spirit he must have. I was impressed. I tried to think of time alone with M. How selfish I would have to admit I was. How unworldly. How dull.

As if to answer each and every question hovering in the air between the three of us, he finally said, almost casually, “I’m terminal – got about a year to live. No its not the ‘big’A’ -terminal lung cancer.”
I was stunned. Fortunately I hide certain reactions very well. I preferred to allow for a pause -out of respect for the situation’s gravity – and for time to think of SOMETHING to say to this poor guy.

Then my esteemed colleague piped in with his perfect question. The timing was impeccable and M laughed ( I think he may have even hugged one of us, but I was still in shock). He liked my colleague’s reaction to his news, but he was less anxious to talk about being single.

After giving his number to us and fielding really dumb questions from me -“what about smoking? Are you sure you have only have a year?” M finally settled into the stool in front of us and told the tale of his failed relationship. It was a sad story, but not unique. My colleague even pointed out that I had endured a similar break-up. M was not to be stopped at this point, however. Fidelity, honesty and respect were all he required from a man.

Now you see the tragedy. Such a fine man and he was dying. He even managed to tell of the advantages of knowing the when of it all. One rarely meets a man of character, intelligence and integrity and I certainly never expect such people at the Eagle.

Driver: HOME!

I drive my esteemed colleague home from our evenings out. It’s part of the ritual. Driving can inspire reflection, I find. These reflections can sometimes be shocking or offensive to my passenger and even though I feel a sense of dread at sharing my thoughts, I can’t seem to help myself. So, as my colleague was reveling in the rarity of our evening I just blurted it out. All at once. To my surprise, my friend just listened and nodded.

You see after examining some facts, it seemed entirely possible our Miraculous M was making the whole thing up.

He didn’t look ill. He was constantly running around from place to place without losing a breath. He cheeks were full of healthy colour. He never coughed – not even while chain smoking. He showed no signs of fatigue or pain or even discomfort. He had all his hair and his energy level was off the charts.I have seen some terminally ill lung cancer victims. What I saw in them was the process of dying – of losing hair and skin and weight and control and energy and breath. It is possible M was ‘freed’ and even energized by reconciling himself with death. I’m sure many dying people are empowered by their unique knowledge. Nonetheless, the body dies and it shows.

Being gullible by nature, I’m always shocked to learn I’ve been duped and I find lies particularly injurious. While I have little time for lies, my esteemed colleague has none. He never lies. Imagine that? He NEVER lies. Not to anyone. But neither of us were yet convinced he was deceiving us. My colleague even called for a massage appointment, but M was never heard from again.

Death and beyond

But my doubts about M extended beyond his mortal coil. I was suspicious, as one quite naturally is after being lied to about everything he had said. As if the Big lie put in question his whole character – laid him bare to await my methodical dissection.

There were all these clues. But what did they add up to?

His minutely short attention span. His insistence on shaking every hand in the room. His rapid fire speech patterns. He inability to stay put. His inability to listen to others. His inability to rest or even pause. I recalled that he had asked no questions of either of us. Not one. That he was always center stage. That he never laughed at anyone else’s witticisms. That he was the Act and we were the audience.

Most troubling was the feeling I had that M did and said everything that night because he seemed compelled to. He had the anxious, tight, determined manor of a man who couldn’t stop himself.

Ever met a pathological liar? I’ve known two. They can be infuriating and, of course, unreliable. They can also be terribly kind, engaging and determined to see the people around them happy. Most importantly, they cannot stop themselves. M’s big lie brought the three much closer together and much more quickly than anything else we could have said or done . Think about it. We didn’t need to worry about AIDS and all the mourning that goes along with it. We were spared any real details of the ugly pain of Lung Cancer. Even his death was a year off, so we needn’t worry about that just now.

So maybe he’s not a pathological liar. Who am I to say? And maybe he really is dying. But more than wanting to punish him for his deception or even to save his life, I want for M to be able to STOP. I want to slay whatever it is that compels him to keep spinning through life like a tornado. Watching the storm at a safe distance was very entertaining. Being the storm might well be horrible.

The Miraculous, Tragic M (Part I)

December 16, 2003

Of course, This latest story happened at The Eagle.. Maybe it was a Saturday instead of our usual Friday night though…
No wait. iIt was, I’m informed a Sunday.

Last week my esteemed colleague and I were enjoying the newly enclosed patio there complete with extremely sexy looking (but only marginally effective) space heater. There’s also a new covered entry to the patio; about 15′ long and surrounded on 3 sides with a smelly clear vinyl product. I call it the runway. There’s really only room for one person to pass through this passage at a time, so every new visitor to the patio is on display as singular super star – no cliquey groups of gen-x bears arriving in a clump.

Well, it was becoming cold on the patio and we were ready to go in for re-heating when a large, tall man bounded down the runway and landed with a dramatic flurry at our feet. He immediately presented his hand for shaking, muttering something to himself. After a gentlemanly but crushing handshake, he patted one of us on the shoulder and proceeded to get in the face of every other patron in the room -equally charming and engaging with each one.There was something about this guy – forget how much his gregariousness stood out there on the cold, plastic patio. This guy was charismatic. He had an open handsome face with no sharp features/a strong jaw/ blond – only slightly thinning hair/ a broad smile and good teeth. Most of the men he attempted to greet and jostle with recoiled at his attempts, but he would not be put off until he crunched every hand in the room.

“Thank you, thank you very much. There’ll be door prizes when you leave.” he would say-or something like that.

He finally ended up seated beside my esteemed colleague, though he never remained still for long. We were both more than willing to indulge this fresh new face and between his rushes to the WC and negotiations with the DJ we learned much about him.
He was Serbian. He liked Metalica. He had a Savant-like knowledge of popular culture which he referred to constantly. He claimed to speak five – or was it six – languages. He also seemed to know the proper name and location of every muscle of the human body.

Now, my esteemed colleague is an expert in nomenclature. He has encyclopedic knowledge of the language and even HE was impressed with M’s knowledge of muscular anatomy. So impressed, in fact that he allowed M to do something I thought I’d never see in a public place.

“The way you sit -let me guess – at a desk all day – maybe a computer even? OK. You probably have a blah blah in your blah blah”.

The next thing I knew M had my esteemed colleague sitting on a stool right in the middle of the patio. Overcoats were removed and the miraculous M began LAYING HANDS on my friend.

“Just so you know this isn’t sexual , OK? ” as he starts feeling up friend’s back.”Ok. Ok now , feel this here?” – M calls me over and I actually feel a knotted bump on my colleague’s shoulder. What’s more, my colleague did not resist this public touching . Neither of us takes kindly to being made the center of attention, especially when being man-handled is involved. We looked at each in total delighted surprise as if to say “this guy knows his shit”, and ” Take note of this. This is RARE.”

So now our tall, rapid-fire speaking new friend had acquired a whole new stature in both our eyes. He had cured my colleague of an itch I doubt he even knew he had. When I let it be known that I was uncharacteristically cold, he smothered me with his corduroy blazer without missing a beat. He was kind, witty and although he never seemed to stay with us very long – very entertaining.
Cuddled under his blond colored blazer I realized that this – that HE; the miraculous M – we both needed very much:
A man who seemed to want nothing more than be our friends, and a man who was more than up to that task.

Next something happened that changed the tone our evening – not mention future relations with M – for good. Something that would up the ante – raise the stakes – transform our burgeoning friendships into something else altogether. A tragedy was about to unfurl.