So I hear you think I’m gay?
I had just stepped down from the karaoke stage, beaming with self importance and knowing the bar tab prize at the end of the night was mine. (I was underage) I high-fived some fans on the way back to my vodka sour when a man stepped in front of me. I glanced at my vodka drink, just over an arms length away, and willed him to step aside.
He didn’t. Instead, he offered to buy me another drink. I hesitated, knowing my acceptance could lead to an evening of uncomfortable conversation and awkward silence.
I pictured him standing in the bar alone, wondering why I had never returned from the bathroom. I said “yes.” He smiled. I immediately regretted my reply.
Oddly enough, he didn’t turn and walk the ten steps to the bar to get me a drink of his choosing, nor did he ask my preference. Instead, he posed a question I haven’t forgotten, one that sent my life spinning in the direction it still follows.
“So,” he said. “Before i get you a drink, I need to ask you a question.”
“Ask away”, I replied, not really caring that my annoyance showed through my fake smile.
“Are you gay?” he said.
My brain snapped to attention.
“Excuse me?” I replied. “What kind of question is that?”
I mentally placed an invisible mirror in front of me, scrutinizing my choice of outfits. Red and white striped shirt that showed off my teen-aged midriff, jeans, black boots…hmm Nine West’s version of combat boots, maybe that was it. It couldn’t have been my perfectly applied make up, my long straight Indian hair. Lesbians didn’t look like me. Did they?
“The reason I ask”, he said, interrupting my self scrutiny, “is because my ex wife left me for a woman. I’m extra careful now.”
I looked at him, really looked at him for the first time.
He was in his twenties(I guessed). He had a premature receding hairline he was obviously sensitive to (He had combed his hair forward to minimize its impact on his ego). He was Caucasian, blue eyes, not at all unattractive, but for his belly that pooched out over his khaki Dickies, and perhaps the fact that he was not only wearing khaki Dickies, but that his plain, brown, boring loafers peeked out from under those Dickies. I was too young to know if I had a type, but there, in that moment, I was sure that this man in front of me, was not it.
“Oh”, he said, interrupting my thoughts. “I also asked you cause my sister said you’re gay.”
I looked up at him, and could only ask, “Who’s your sister?”
He pointed to the bar where a woman sat at a stool with her back to us. From where I stood I could see her flannel shirt, (no joke) her tight jeans, and her REAL combat boots. I laughed. “Does she know she’s gay?”, I smarted.
“She’s not gay,” he replied. I immediately thought of his mystery ex wife. He was not a good judge I would say.
I excused myself, forgetting that I still had not received the drink, remembering I had never answered his question. Drinks with conditions didn’t seem worth the trouble.
I walked up to the bar and planted myself next to her, deliberately staring at her profile, knowing she could no doubt feel my presence. If I kept staring, she would turn soon enough.
When she did, just a few seconds later, straw in mouth and in mid drink, I said, “So I hear you think I’m gay?”
She giggled, a reaction I didn’t expect, given her combat boots and brown flannel shirt. I immediately softened, and smiled, felt flutters in my tummy I didn’t expect.
We closed the bar down, talking about everything and anything. I sent my confused friends home. We continued our conversation outside, long after the bar staff had turned off the last light and dumped out the last box of clanging bottles in the nearby dumpster.
I had my first kiss that night. Not my first kiss ever. I had kissed a guy, but this was my first real kiss, the first kiss teens dream about, with imaginary magic fairy dust floating in the air around you. I thought of her brother’s earlier question, and smiled as we kissed one more time before finally sitting in our own cars and driving away. I answered his question under my breath, “Yes, I guess I am.”