He said I snore too loudly for him to sleep (I do, and it could be) and that "the dog" does, too (she doesn't. She just talks in her sleep).

KINYESI
And A Bunch Of It, Too
(from the Swahili)
Part Two

by R.C. Hampton

from the conclusion of Kinyesi: Part I

So here I am. Ruby is of course waiting with me. Trying to look cool. Trying to catch my reflection in the glass so that I can get a little pose thaing goin' on. I'm not even sure I'll recognize this guy from his pictures, but I figure that me and Ruby are the only two hounds waiting. In the end my nerves finally caved in and I had to turn away from the deplaning passengers and pick up some magazine left lying around. I think I was holding it upside-down.

Someone put their hand on my shoulder and spoke my name . . . in that voice. I had prepared myself for a possible Quasimodo, and I was pretty much okay with that, I thought. Slowly, I turned around and . . .

He was beautiful, just like the laughing pictures.

.

And then the beautiful man who had described himself as balding and having a belly turned out to have fine blonde hair, and while I suppose you could tell he didn't live in a gym, for a man just starting to slide into middle-age he was trim and fit. I introduced Ruby and we turned to go grab his stuff. I can't recall what it was that I said to him, but I imagine it was something about the generally underwhelming aspect of our airport. Although we're a capitol city, we still only have four real gates and about that many jet flights in and out each day.

What I was thinking, however, was another matter altogether. Lines from early emails that had wooed me into a correspondence with this man boiled up in my mind. In response to his initial email note I wrote back that I just wasn't relationship material, but, essentially, thanks for the thought, to which he replied:
You remember me. WOW! I am flattered. I don't see myself as that memorable. Then you take up an entire paragraph extolling my virtues. All of which are completely true, by the way. THEN, you ass, you tell me you are just not relationship material. But can you stop there? NO, NOT YOU. You have to send me two great shots that instantly give me a huge boner. Don't make me come out there and lick your ass. I mean kick your ass.

And again I was remembering: I had asked why, if he wasn't a twisted-up psychotic mess, he was still single, and I recalled his email answer:
Seriously man, you're killing me here. I am not a "stone psycho, way high-maintenance, creepy or have a disability that is too much to cope with" Yet you eliminate me from your life before I even get my chance. Now I ask you, How fair is that? The least you could do is sleep with me first.
(A comment I took to be, at least in part, lighthearted.)

As we made our way to grab his bag and hit the bricks I'm sure we said all the mundane things people who meet one another for the first time at airports say, but I can't remember them at all. My mental transmission was slipping gears, wouldn't leave those past emails alone. I was still thinking of them, and wondering why they all, collectively, had brought him to this point and place:
So why am I single? I have come to the general conclusion that despite all notions to the contrary and with knowledge of what is out there to choose from, that I am one surefire damn catch. Honest and sincere to a fault. A one-man guy willing to do more than my part to establish and maintain a relationship. Yet here I am...shamelessly hitting on you even after you tell me you're practically a monk.

I'll be the first to admit that anyplace in the Corn Belt just ain't no great shakes. For the second largest city in the state, and the capitol to boot, there just isn't a whole lot to say about this place, but I'm sure I was trying hard to keep the chatter up, and to overlook any crabby remarks that someone who has just flown across the country to meet you might utter upon finding such a clearly dull city, and a boy and his dog of indeterminate worth. The thing is, I don't recall my pretty visitor as being crabby at all. And as long as we are going to be talking about him for a while, let's go ahead and name him. Since I think of him as a nice guy, why don't we just call him "NG." (It's a family thing with me. For generations none of us have used our real names, instead opting for nicknames or our initials. So, Nice Guy becomes NG.)

NG is younger than I am, so just maybe he didn't understand that he had for quite a while been calling Ruby by the name of a particularly nasty form of measles, "Rubella" (often called German Measles), that had had a real banquet going on for itself when I was a kid. I had it. So did everybody else in school. There came a vaccine, but not before a whole truckload of birth abnormalities (read: severe), death, and sterility in adults. It was a big and ugly deal back then. Perhaps I should have seen a clue.

As I mentioned in the previous installment of this tale, I was dressed if not to impress, then to look alright, and it was clear even before we got out of the minimalist airport's jetway that something about me made NG's pants proud. There was something in those khakis of his that was sniffing me out like a Blue Tick hound, and because that expression of interest just happened to be going on pretty much in the vicinity of my at-wheelchair-height face, I couldn't help but notice.

After not too much time NG commented upon my very observation, so I began to think that unless one or the other of us did or said something just really awful before night fell, it was probably not a waste of money to have gotten some nice bedding, because I had pretty much made up my mind that if this guy didn't have some Cyrano writing his email for him or coaching his phone calls, I was gonna tumble for the whole package. It was just a matter of waiting until nighttime to make it seem right. Besides, I hadn't gotten the silk rose garland wrapped around the headboard of the bed or the hunks of cedarwood scattered around, and I was hoping to have a chance to do that beforehand, just to make things a little more memorable, as though flying across half the nation wasn't enough of a reminder that this was not just your run-of-the-mill trick.

We had debated over the phone where to go for the dinner NG promised to take me to as part of his visit. Dressy or Not Dressy. I voted for not. He was leaning towards dressy. Since they closed the private club upstairs in my building, if there is a place in town where you must wear a tie, I don't know where it would be, and I would not be too inclined to go there if I did know. I think we had sandwiches most of the time. Out. There is nothing in my refrigerator less than six years old.

But you, all of you, are wondering about the sex bit. I didn't get a chance to slip in and string the silk roses and scatter the cedarwood. But I am pleased to report that none of my potentially treacherous bodily functions took over the show, as I had feared they might, and while I'm a bit rusty and NG purports to be a man of limited sexual experience, I thought things went well that first time, even if the climax of the show was over before I had a chance to whip out any extra-special moves. I always figure that after the first shot is fired the good stuff that comes after gets slower and better, with a better kick at the end. NG felt an urgent need to jump up and wipe himself of any jizz whatsoever, which I thought was funny at first until I realized that he really did want to. I was perplexed, but there was always later, and a number of days and nights to go. I slept.

When I woke, NG was not beside me. A cursory look around my place (big and open) found him almost at the other end. He said I snore too loudly for him to sleep (I do, and it could be) and that "the dog" does, too (she doesn't. She just talks in her sleep).

Shopping. We did a lot of shopping while NG was here. I don't shop. I go out and purchase. Got it? Get it! I'm gone with it! Throw that (fill-in noun here) in the trunk and let's rocket. It was one of the shopping runs that kind of messed things up, I think. NG has a job where he truly and simply cannot come out. I consider it to be the most noble job there is. On one of our early shopping forays I got him a gift, something to equal the balance between us for him having flown out to visit. Something to aid him in his work. Something that he wouldn't have gotten for himself. (Maybe the fact that he would get complicated "window treatments" done fairly often should have told me where his priorities lay.) He wasn't comfortable with this token because it made him feel like I was trying to buy him off. A far as I was concerned, my gift came with no strings attached. If this thing between us blossomed, he might use it and think of me with love; or if not, then he could use it and think of a friend in the Breadbasket of Our Land. That's all.

During our intimate time that night something occurred that pretty much split apart the crack the gift had made in whatever serious thing might have happened between us. Despite NG's warnings of imminent nuclear meltdown I didn't pull away and grab a towel. Since he had assured me he was free of The Virus and any other STDs I did the gentlemanly thing and took the (relatively) low risk of simply swallowing. NG was aghast. From his reaction you'd have thought I had done something horrid rather than something maybe a little sordid. Many years ago, another man was kneeling over me as I fucked him with one of those little swing-away Quickie wheelchair arms (it's okay folks, it wore a condom). After he came and I removed the arm, he shit on my chest. I didn't react as badly to that as NG did to the swallowing thing. Whatever might have been was nipped in the bud. Those khakis of his were never to look proudly in my direction again.

But wait! There's more...

NG has bills to pay, for things like flying out to meet people like yours truly & Ruby, not to mention complicated window treatments, this last being his only source of comfort because, and I quote directly, "I don't have a man to spoil." To afford these little extras, NG falls back on his previous line of work, interior decorating. Evidently he is quite good at it. He has aligned himself with a couple of really wealthy families whose members own several houses apiece, all in need of nearly seasonal decoration. Not to mention that they often buy and sell their houses, or add or subtract chunks of them.

One of the things that allowed NG and me to chatter on and on until the phone companies were burning out circuit boards was that the son of one of these really wealthy families had recently married and the loving couple had a brand new baby. The mother, bless her heart (my granny used to say you could say anything about anyone as long as you said "bless their heart"), she didn't have enough sense to feed the poor little mite. It got so bad that her husband hired NG, at his usual salary, to teach his new wife how to cook, clean, feed her child and . . . decorate, or as NG said, "To do everything gay ."

Soon NG was runnin' and steppin' and fetchin' for Little Missy (as we came to call her), and caring for that baby far better than she could do or ever cared to do. But then one day NG overhears her, on the phone, calling him one of her "servants." NG waxed roth at this and went to his confidante, Big Grace, the Matriarch of the clan, in righteous indignation. Big Grace is appalled. She's pissed. She's angry. She calls Little Missy on the carpet, so to say. NG is avenged.

Now all of this inside dish pertains to NG and me in the following way: hanging out with the rich folks has made him take certain things for granted, certain things he doesn't see much of around here. It took me a while to figure out that that was what he meant when he so often asked, "Where are all the pretty people?" Funny thing is, the Pretty People were right here under NG's nose. In my building alone there's an antiques dealer who contributes heavily to gay causes, a former governor and his wife, a big-time heiress, a best-selling children's book author, a multiple-Emmy-winning producer of documentaries (who has at last come out of the closet everyone could see into except his wife), various trust fund babies, a corporate lawyer who makes it hand-over-fist (and who I know uses an out-call "escort" service from Omaha). Jeeze, here they are, if that's what you're after.

You can even find Queer Pretty People hereabouts. On Saturday at the Farmers Market I hollered and beckoned NG to come over and meet all the Power Queers at the coffee shop where it is de rigueur to languish if you are one of them. (NG was busy buying a string of old Christmas lights for something like twenty-five cents.) When I feel like being nasty, or when I want something for the "community" badly enough, I'll go to their tired parties. Floating in the pool at one of these High-End Suburban Events I listened to Jon tell Lucas that he and his lover were going to ski in Switzerland, or maybe Austria. They just couldn't make up their minds. Lucas commiserated. I bumped into them and said, "So, since it's been the big issue this year, what do ya'll think about Health Care for Domestic Partners?" Jon looked at me like I had just farted. "My lover has his own HMO," he said. "I don't see the problem."

That's just it. They don't see the problem. Until a half-dozen drunken linebackers take one of them off, just like they did to a friend of mine years ago in Texas. A tiny and sweet man he was, too, but there was never a charge made against those jocks, no one to vindicate him. Wait till your partner is getting out of his Lexus SUV and a band of drunken jocks comes to meet him. Will you be empathetic then? Ah! I'm sorry. I'll climb down from the pulpit.

There are Pretty People and there are Friends. I have a dear friend who has The Virus and who cannot get out much anymore, but I had begged and pleaded with him for weeks beforehand to meet this new guy, this NG. We had a meal at one of my favorite restaurants and then went to see the movie "A-I." My friend and I wept over how cruel people can be to the helpless, particularly when they are children. We wept at the endurance of an unrequited love. We were humbled by the span of time. NG didn't get it. He grumped that it should have been three movies or a miniseries or something. Another night we got together with my friend and former lover Eric, but that went even worse.

Finally it came to pass that NG needed to lie down for a rest and I needed to do the same thing. I asked him to join me on the bed, to rest together. He stiffened, and I don't mean in a good way. "Look," I said, "I asked you to lie down with me, not to fuck !" And so we did. I said that I had been feeling this growing chill, a drawing back. What's up? Neither of us thought of this as a "ring thing," but what's on your mind?

NG went off on his "two different worlds" jag, and I said swell, contrast is where synergy comes in. He said, "You love that dog more than your life," and I replied, "If a man will abandon his dog he will abandon his lover someday." "We are so different," he said. "We just covered that," I said. " We don't have anything to talk about." "Yes", I said, "that must have been what was running up those phone bills that will take months to pay off."

NG touched with his toe a rainbow string ring, and complained, "this house . . . it is so gay !!" Aside from a bunch of gay literature on my bookshelves the only other overtly "gay thing" I have in the house is another of those string streamers and some magnets on my refrigerator door. My home may be in bad taste, but it's not particularly GAY. When I had my friend Alston's Living Wake here the guest list was his own. I didn't know a soul. One of the guests marveled at how cool the place was and did I know the host? I said that I had just arrived, but that I thought it looked rather nice myself.

"And there are your friends . . .," NG complained. (Whom you find of no interest or have vetoed meeting, I thought.) "Gay is what I do, not what I am!" he huffed. "So, in short," I said, "I am not the man you'd bring home to meet your mother because I am vulgar White Trash?" NG was quick to deny that: "Oh, no . . . well yes, you are vulgar! But you have a fine mind!" So I guess you have to be vulgar and in bad taste and be stupid to be trash? I'd better go put that on a sticky-note. I'll use it for daily meditation.

But back to this "Gay is what I do not what I am business." Here's NG, a middle-aged single man with a houseful of fussy window treatments and a clutter of antiques. If that doesn't scream "'GAAAAAY!" I don't know what does. When you meet the guy you are gonna try long-term and full-time with, I wanted to ask, will you tell him with the same sincerity that you told me, "They're only things?"

Vulgar but with a fine mind. Hmmm. But I can clean up. I don't have to use the word "fuck" in every sentence. I can use the proper silver with the proper dish, both American and European. I know a little of the good bits of a whole lot of things, quite a bit about quite a bit of stuff, and a whole lot about a few things. So just what are these distinctions NG is trying to draw?

Both of us grew up in The South (capitals intended), and we know how stratified things still are, along race lines, class lines . . . it is just done a little more subtly now. But here's the thing: I betcha that if I asked NG to name his relations with Big Grace and all the other Pretty People down home, he would say, "They're my friends." If you asked any of them about NG, they would take a moment to compose a reply (bad news right there) and, if female, touch their pearls or their hair and say, "NG! Oh, law . . . we go way on back. You've seen my sunroom, haven't you? It was just the ugliest thing until NG got ahold of it. He is just so good at what he does! And he's so . . . colorful . Just so funny". The men, if you pried it out of them, would call NG "A real card! What a character."

The true name of those relations will be revealed the day NG finds himself a steady man. A woman at some social function will touch another woman's shoulder and ask quietly, "Honey, who is that who seems to be with NG over there?" The reply, after a pregnant pause and a quick glance at the first woman, will be something like, "I don't really know much about him . . . something with fiber optics, I believe. They're very . . . close you know." And just like that the Joker turns into the Two of Spades. One fag is tolerable, even attractive. Thought real well of. You put two together, it scares straight people to death. They're afraid we'll breed like bunnies until we are just all over the place, and then what? No more invitations to nice galas, nice dinners, all of that. Add another man to the picture, you might have to actually talk about . . . "it."

What NG does is his day job. What NG is, is a man who likes to have sex with men, but doesn't like himself enough to let his own jizz linger on his body. But let's not be so harsh on him, he is only passing on down the line what that guy did to him a while back, remember? Seduced him and then pitched him. I suspect that we have all done that. We have all been dumped because we were too fat or our dicks were too small or too big or because we fucked too hard or not hard enough or for the color of our natural hair or whether we were gym bunnies or too prissy or too butch, and I'll bet there are a number of guys that have been dumped for all those things by different people.

NG asked me if I wanted him to go home early, and I said no. He said he guessed he was just a snob and I said, "Boy, fuckin' howdy!" Me, I'm a former whore street kid who slept where I thought I could find a safe place and ate out of fast-food trash cans when I had to, so I don't have the option of being a snob, and I hope I never get to where I set myself above anyone else. We're all just here for the lessons. Sometimes we get a free ride, sometimes we gotta work. But here's the funny thing, the thing I can't get my brain around. I've been dumped and overlooked by men for just about all those things I named a minute ago, and ever since I've been a crip I've been dumped and overlooked mostly because of that. Before NG got here, that's what I thought the reason would be, if things didn't work out. I figured he'd dump me because I'm a crip. But never for being white trash, sitting up here in this big ol' place. I don't know whether to laugh or . . .

Anyhow, that NG is a nice guy. He'll make someone a good partner someday. I have faith. But just now he is a boy who can talk the talk, not a man who can walk the walk. Maybe he's just waiting for the Lucky Break that I know the God/dess gives every one of us. Trouble is, most of the time it comes when you're so jaded and beat and fucked-up that you'll piss all over whoever offers it. I sure do hope that NG's Lucky Break gets delivered soon.

© 2001 R.C. Hampton

 

R.C. Hampton
has written for BENT before
(Puppy-Whipped, V.A. Blues,
and Radio Ghosts).
We hope he does again.

 

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/November 2001