Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?
Thursday, July 8
Saw a new guy at the gym today. Late twenties, slender, muscular. “Trifecta,” I muttered under my breath as I reached for the dumbbell.
His hair, oh my God, his hair. Soft, blondish, jewelry-ish. Shined like a Faberge egg. And speaking of eggs I almost cracked mine when I realized he was kinda looking at me.
I wanted to say something clever, something witty but all I managed to do was point to his chest and say “That’s not real, is it?”
“Yes, it’s real,” he laughed. “I spent a lot of time there.” He was wearing a sweatshirt that said “Transylvania University.”
“I didn’t realize vampires had their own college,” I said. “Was it tough, sitting through the classes, waiting for a blood break?”
“Yes,” he said. “Mean professors, too. They went for the jugular if you gave the wrong answers.”
“Okay, stop,” I say, “Or we’re going to pun ourselves to death.”
“Brad,” he says.
“Dale,” I say.
He’s a psychologist and just moved here.
It didn’t take me long to do the math: Handsome + Tall + Slender + Muscular + Youngest PhD I ever met = White Picket Fence.
And then I had to go. My boss was already on my back for taking long lunches.
As I got into the car I thought, “You know, there are guys you wanna fuck and there are guys you want to marry.”
“This guy, I wanna fucking marry him.”
Saturday, July 10
“You’re dog’s a dyke, man.”
It’s Richard, taking a drag of his cigarette and blowing out the smoke. He’s staring at Zoey, the only Labrador Retriever I know who won’t retrieve.
First time Richard saw me throw the ball he died laughing. He’d never seen a Labrador NOT retrieve a ball. “What’s the matter?” he asked Zoey. “Won’t fetch anything for the patriarchy?”
I knew Zoey was a dyke the day I came home with a bunch of handkerchiefs. She refused to let me tie them on her. Except the ugly one. That one she wore every day.
Dinner is the best time to see the juxtaposition of Zack’s girliness and Zoey’s mannishness. Zoey chows down and barks for a beer. Zack picks at his food and wonders if a little coriander wouldn’t take the edge off the kibble.
Zoey hip checks Zack from his bowl, like a school bully stealing his lunch. Zack comes crying to me, wondering if I didn’t perhaps have a nice Cabernet to comfort him with.
Whenever Richard comes over the first thing he says is “Hi, girls!” It’s unclear whether I’m included in the greeting, but that’s not the point. The point is that he simply assumes Zack is gay and feels free to take liberties with the correct pronouns.
Once, Richard was showing everyone the weirdness of a Retriever who wouldn’t retrieve. He threw the ball and as usual, Zoey just stared at him the way someone at the Chicago Womyn’s festival would look at you if you suggested high heels for a change.
Then Cindy, a lipstick lesbian, takes the ball and says “You just have to know how to talk to a girl.” She coos at Zoey, makes her smell the ball and then throws it. And for the first time in years, Zoey fetches it.
Richard says, “Oh, so that’s the secret,” as he takes a drag of his cigarette and blows the smoke out. “You have to have tits and a tight box before she’ll fetch it.”
Saturday, July 17
Corner of Piedmont and 10th. 8 pm. Ran into that cutie guy I met in the gym. He says, “Hey, Dale, how are you?”
Of course I couldn’t remember his name (why can’t I ever remember names?) so I said “Heyyyyyyyy” and hoped he wouldn’t notice that I’d forgotten it.
“You don’t remember my name, do you?” he asked.
“Am I that transparent?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said without hesitation.
“Well, then buy me a drink and let’s toast my transparency.”
We slip into Gilbert’s bar and talk for a while and of course the first question that comes to my mind is “How do I get him from the bar to my bed?”
I talked about my new house, that it was the first time I ever owned a pool.
“I love swimming,” he said.
“There’s your opening,” whispers the devil on my right shoulder. “Invite him over for a swim.”
“Forget it,” whispers the angel on my left shoulder. “This one’s too good to just trick with. Don’t go home with him; ask him out on a date.”
Needless to say, the angel sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher (“Wha-wha-wha, wha-wha, wha-wha-wha”)and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
“So,” I say leaning in to Brad with a mischievous look. “Wanna come over and see my pool?”
Wednesday, August 2
Love is in the air! Does that mean it’s in my lungs?
Talked to Brad on the phone today. I knew there was something different about him the night he came over to “see my pool” (God, is that not the worst line I’ve ever used?).
At the door he could hear Zack and Zoey barking. “You have dogs?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “A girly-boy Vizsla and a porky, Lesbian Labrador.
Most guys I bring home do a side bend to half-pet the dogs and then ask for the bathroom to wash their hands.
Brad didn’t bend from the waist; he knelt down. Zack and Zoey jumped all over him. He lost his balance and ended up falling on his butt –with a look of complete joy on his face as the dogs jumped all over him and licked his face.
It was just so sweet, like he belonged here in my house.
We go outside. I pour us drinks. We talk forever.
And there, on a hot July evening, with the moonlight dancing on the deck and my heart skipping over the water, I looked for a space in the conversation; a space like the space between the stars that twinkled above us. And when I found it, I leaned over and gently kissed this sweet guy who went to vampire school, this warm funny guy who sat on the floor and hugged my dogs like he’d known them for years.
Tuesday, August 20
At the vulgarian’s house, hanging out. “There’s gay culture again, shirtless and ready for action,” I say as I read Hotspots Magazine.
Richard looks up from the TV. “Now what?”
“Look at this,” I bring him the magazine. “There’s a shirtless guy in an ad for HIV drugs, for God’s sakes!”
Even Richard agrees with me. “Yuck,” he says. “That’s way creepy, putting sex in ads for people who might die.”
And there you have it.
I mean, Richard is to chastity, probity and sexual self-restraint what gay bars are to the entertainment dollar: A spectacular failure with neither the desire nor ability to change. So if he says the advertisers have gone too far, they’re out somewhere in Pluto.
“For once I agree with you,” says Richard.
“Using sex appeal is fine for the right product,” I say. “Bars, for instance, should hold out the hope of getting laid.”
“And not just because there’s no hope of hearing good music,” he says, “Or seeing creative talent.”
“Exactly,” I say. “It’s perfectly appropriate for 900 sex lines to have “USDA” stamped on the rears of all their models. But sex appeal in an HIV ad?”
“Come on,” I throw the magazine in the wastebasket.
“We’re better than that,” I shake my head.
“Aren’t we?” I ask again, waiting for my chorus.
But Richard is not paying attention. He’s staring at the ad with that look he reserves for porn.
“AREN’T WE?” I ask emphatically, LOUDLY.
“I don’t know,” he says. “The guy in the ad is awfully hot.”
Wednesday, August 28
I saw that Janet Burroway’s book made the New York Times best seller list. I hadn’t thought of her in years.
I will never forget that woman. Not because she was my English professor at Florida State. Not because she was such a great teacher. Not even because we had such a great relationship. We didn’t; I hardly remember having any conversations with her.
Still, I’ll never forget her because she tried so hard to protect me. One day a cop interrupted her class –a cop! She was not well for it. The whole class froze, knowing something was terribly wrong.
The cop says “Is there a Dale Dent here?” Burroway looks directly at me, slowly turns to the cop and says “No. He’s not.”
Goody-two shoes that I am, I know that I haven’t broken the law or anything so I start to get up. But I realize if I do, I make a liar out of Burroway.
So I raise my hand and I say “Ms. Burroway, no, I’m here, you didn’t see me.”
The cop asks me to step outside the class.
My heart was pounding. This couldn’t be good news. In the hallway the cop looks at me with sadness and hands me a note:
“Call your sister.”
I race to the English Department’s office and grab a phone.
I’m shaking as I dial. My younger sister answers. She’s crying. There’s been a horrible car accident.
All I can remember was the rhythm of my head knocking against the wall, like an autistic child trying to understand what’s being said to him…
There were always four kids in our family. Now there was three. There was no older brother to look up to anymore. The funeral was in Orlando, so my sisters and I shared a hotel room next to Mom.
It was then, I think, that I first realized how out of control I was about sex. Well, not really about sex, but about wanting to be touched by another man.
I told my sisters I had a best friend in Orlando who knew my brother and that we were going to have drinks, not to wait up. I had no such friend. I ended up in a gay bar, looking for some way, the only way that made sense at the time, to alleviate the grief.
It is an absurdity that at the lowest point in my life I went home with the most beautiful guy I’d ever laid eyes on. When he asked me what I was doing in Orlando I did what I always do when a hook-up is potentially jeopardized: I lied.
When we were finished in bed, when I was lost in his embrace, in his tenderness, I cried and cried and cried.
I cried about my brother’s death, about being in a stranger’s arms the night before his funeral, about being so desperate for a man’s touch that I would leave my sisters, my mom, alone in a strange city in what was surely the worst night of their lives.
Thursday, October 1
Last night I paid a surprise visit to Brad. I knocked on his door with my arm behind my back, clearly hiding a gift.
When he answered I stuck out my arm and gave it to him. He oooh’d and ahhh’d but seemed a little disappointed.
Suddenly I realized he was expecting flowers, not a sack of tacos.
Hey, it was dinnertime.
Later, we sat on his porch swing and listened to the crickets. “So,” I said. “Do you think you’ll stay in Atlanta after your internship?”
“Probly,” he said.
“You mean, probably,” I corrected.
“That’s what I said, ‘probly.’”
I had noticed before that Brad had a peculiar way of dropping the “a” in “probably.” I pretend it bugs me, but I’m secretly charmed by it.
He started talking to me in sign language, something he learned from a deaf friend in college.
I asked him to teach me something I could show my nephew.
He made an “L” with his thumb and index finger, raised his pinky and patted his heart.
“What’s that mean?” I asked.
“I love you,” he said.
On the ride home I wondered what kind of hand movements would spell “I love you, too.”
Thursday, October 8
Am I falling for Brad? Or did I trip?
Had a pool party yesterday. In December! Turned the pool heater on. Will cost me a fortune.
We strung a net across the pool and played volleyball. Brad was on my team. We huddled and I said, “Brad, do you think you can cover Richard? He’s pretty tall and hits the ball hard.”
“Probly,” he says.
“You mean ‘probably,’” I poked him in the stomach.
“That’s what I said, ‘probly.”
In the middle of a close game the ball goes up, Richard nails it as hard as he can and Brad, out of nowhere, comes out of the water like Poseidon and blocks it, winning the point.
I was beaming. I looked around and thought, “Did everybody see my cute, 28 year old PhD athletic boyfriend STUFF that ball?”
And then I wondered, “Is he my boyfriend?”
Wednesday, October 17
Richard lights a cigarette and I know I’m in for it. Somebody always gets it in the ass when he lights up a cigarette, and I’m the only one in the room.
“So,” he says as he exhales. “How’s it going with that cutie psychologist?”
“Great,” I say. “He’s 28, has his PhD, very intelligent.”
“Well,” Richard says, “Intelligence is over-rated.”
“How big is his dick?”
None of your business.
“How big is his dick?”
“None of your business.”
“HOW BIG IS HIS DICK!?”
“NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!”