Thursday, July 31, 2008

Track a ghost through the fog...

It is said that ghosts haunt our lives until we release them.

They hide in shadows, appearing to us at the most inopportune times, when our defences are down and our attention is distracted. Sometimes they are loud, rattling their chains and howling, surprising us with their full effect. Others are silent, with nothing more than a penetrating glance that stops us in our tracks.

I had a moment like that this morning. Freshly on vacation from work, and just returned from a trip to Halifax (details later...) I woke up relaxed and happy in my Toronto apartment. The noises of the city were comforting instead of grinding, and I wasted a bit of time before I pulled myself out of bed and off to an appointment.

The first walk after being away from my apartment is always a little joy for me. I pull on my messenger bag, plug in my iPod and head down the street. The entire trip is a reminder of Toronto, of tall buildings and bustling people and a pulse that isn't present back in bum-fuck-nowhere. And today was no different, as I strolled along in the morning sunshine with a goofy smile on my face.

That is, until I got to an intersection not too far from my building. I'd missed the light to cross, as usual, and swiveled around to cross in the opposite direction. The light changed, and I started forward, barely glancing ahead, until I saw someone pass from left to right, across the intersection in front of me.

At first glance nothing even grabbed my attention. Someone walking north, while I was crossing the street, walking west. Medium height, medium build, a nice tanned shine to his skin. I started to pay a little more attention, since this was the first cute guy that I'd crossed paths with since starting my walk.

Then I started noticing his shirt, the way his jeans fit, the strikingly familiar height...and I started wondering if this was actually a guy I'd gone out with or someone that just looked like him. At that moment, his head turned a fraction of an inch, and between our sunglasses I felt our eyes lock for a moment. But his face didn't change, his pace didn't alter...he kept on walking.

This all happened in a matter of a few seconds. By the time I'd crossed the street to his side, he'd continued walking north, and I was treated to a profile of his back. Again, I studied him, trying to decide if it was really him or just someone that looked an awful lot like him.

And if it was him, what the hell was he doing here? He lived on the other side of town, why would he be in my neighborhood? I shuddered at the thought that his new boyfriend lives in the area.

I'm getting to understand more and more what people say about exes and how they are remembered. Not that I've dated a significantly large number of guys, but the memories of ones I have gone out with have all blended together in bizarre hybrids. Qualities that made you happy, or irritated you, are not remembered in one person, but in several different vehicles.

My memory swirled, as I thought about him and I, one of the ghosts from my past that still hasn't been released. He was the silent variety, who left without a word, and offered no insight today on the street. I had that mix of memories, that fuzzy remembrance of how I liked him, how I thought things were going to wind up working between us...then I realized that I was dragging one of my hybrid memories onto his face, and shook my head. Things fucked up for a reason, after all, even though I don't really know what that reason was.

I'd always wondered what would happen if I saw him again. Would I get a smile, or a few words? Or, like today, the cold shoulder? As I walked, I toyed with the idea of going after him, or calling his name. After all, could I finally let one of my ghosts go?

But no, I kept walking, just like he did. Of course, it didn't stop the questions from coming, the nagging in my mind, and the wonder if it really was him that had walked by. And, of course, after he had left my vision, I just thought, "What an asshole!"

But as we all know, these ghosts tend to pop up from time to time, and shake our world for the briefest moment. Usually at the most inopportune moments, and always when you least expect it.

Next time I hope I get to banish him forever.

Monday, July 21, 2008

His sexy exes...

There are many things I'm still trying to figure out about the almost-boyfriend.

Stuff like compatibility in tastes, compatibility in cultural appreciation, the whole physical thing...

About the only thing I know is that we get along well and like each other's company.

It should end there, really. After all, isn't that the most important thing? That we like being in the same space as each other? Take Saturday, for example. With our plans washed up, we decided to go out and hang out/hike in a park and enjoy the weather. Unfortunately, when I picked him up, it started to pour and thunderstorm as we pulled into the park gates.

So instead of sitting outside, we sat in my car, with the rain pelting the windshield, and just talked. And it was actually really nice.

I'm even trying to wrap my head around the physical end of things, the fact that he's not what I'm really attracted to. Every time I walk by a guy I think is really cute, I sigh a little inside and say to myself, "I wish James came in that packaging."

It's obscene of me to think, since the inside counts way more than the outside...and it's not even that he's unattractive! He's just really not my type. And it's hard, because I think to myself, "Do I keep running with things as they are, or do I end things and keep on searching for 'perfection' in a boyfriend?"

Lately, with our return to school coming ever closer, I also wonder what kind of a couple we'll be in the big city. Will he enjoy going to a gallery as much as I do? Can he handle taking in the Royal Ontario Museum on a Friday night instead of...well, anything? Is he fast food while I'm wine-and-cheese?

Are we going to find that our interests in our 'regular' lives are a lot different, after we have the freedom from small-town confines?

Not that I'm terrified about the possibility, because there are of course plenty of couples that share different interests but can meet on common grounds. It's just the thought that, in my mind, the boyfriend I finally find would be strikingly similar to myself, enough that we'd have similar desires to check out this show or that restaurant.

- - - - - - - - -

During Pride weekend, while we mingled in the crowds, occasionally James would recognize someone and either wave or cower behind me. While trying not to be obviously nosey, I asked him who all these mystery men were.

As it turned out, most were exes, one night stands or part of the similar collection of homosexual skeletons we have hanging in our closets. They were all friendly...or at least the ones that talked to us were...and they were all very, very cute.

One after another, I was dazzled by his roster of very eligible boys. They were a diverse lot of races and sizes, but all set off my attraction meter in similar fashion. I kept thinking, and asking subtly, "Why the hell did you break it off with that hot thing?"

And I kept asking myself, "Why the hell are you with me?"

In one instance, we were walking up Church St. in the dusky light, and I was admiring a tall, lean boy walking south past us. He wore black jeans, a tight-but-not-too-tight t-shirt and a summer scarf. I smiled slightly, appreciating him; he was attractive without being over the top, just another example of what I had believed to be my diverse taste in guys.

"Oh shit," James said, stepping beside me. "That's {blank}."

"Friend of yours?" I asked, sticking my tongue out.

"Well, we dated for like a week," he said. "It didn't work out, we didn't really spark," he added, nonchalantly.

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. While I understand that without a click there's no point, it's hard for me to see an attractive boy walk by and find out my almost-boyfriend had dated him for a week and moved on. I mean, Jesus, at least date him for a few, he's hot!

But again and again I found the same thing; James' boyfriends and lovers were all striking. And again and again, I found myself desiring their bodies more than his.

What it all comes down to is my struggle to understand this whole conundrum. Here we have a host of boyfriends that have killer looks, who dated a boy I'm now with, who is in my taste of tastes not really my best physical match.

It's bizarre! He's clearly hot, or not all of his exes would be. So why am I just not feeling that intense appreciation of his looks, when by the rules of logic he should be as attractive as all the boys from his past?

I know, I know...I'm weird. I can't explain it. And I hate it, because I'd rather be falling over myself because of his looks instead of wondering why I'm not. Maybe it's some insane psychological thing, that I'm not intensely physically attracted to him because of the fact we've got these feelings planted in each other. Or maybe it's just as stupidly simple as he's just not my type. So now what do we do?

And what does it say about me, another in this stream of boys in his life? Does this mean that I'm as attractive as all the rest of them, that my presence in his life means I stand next to the other sexy specimens who passed us by that weekend? Or am I the freak anomaly, the bizarre being that he's giving a spin because I'm radically different from the rest of the guy's he's been with? That he's simply trying something outside of his usual feast of fabulous boyfriends?

Does it mean I'm attractive, or ugly?

Throughout all of this, I have to reiterate that things are going really well between us. We're both in the longest thing either of us has ever had, and netiher of us really believes it's happening. We don't want to push it too much, because it might explode...yet we're being pushed out of our comfort zones by things actually working out with the guy we're dating.

And all of this stuff is the superficial top layer, the least important parts to a connection of the heart. Still, I find myself wracking my brain to understand the bizarre triangle of looks that seems to have appeared, and so far, I haven't had much luck.

Maybe I'll just break down and ask him.

But I get the feeling that honesty in this conversation might not be the most reassuring policy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sorry to disappoint...

It's just been one of those weeks.

A week full of corporate bullshit, a week about bitching about paying employees and having meetings to ensure quality work and to promote better returns.

I was told that if I smile more, and be more cheerful, the company will perform better. I kid you not. And I'd say I'm one of the happiest people at work, 'cause I'm a fuckin' happy person.

The respite for all of this, the carrot at then end of a very long and improperly inserted stick, was supposed to come this weekend. Supposed to.

The almost-boyfriend and me were supposed to house-sit at my cousin's Saturday/Sunday. It was going to be the first time since Pride that we had time to ourselves, time to just hang out together 'at home' and enjoy each other's company in the most casual way possible.

We're both looking forward to it, yearning to have an evening of normality where we can cuddle on the couch, cook dinner and have sex with each other...attempt to be a functional, normal couple. We're both so much looking forward to it, in fact, that we talked about it for an hour yesterday.

And as of yesterday, just like two weeks ago when the originally asked, the word from my cousins was yes, we still need you. No doubt in my mind, I told them to call me tonight to let me know the details.

But fate decided to give me another bitch-slap, because now the whole thing is off. They're not going after all, last minute decision, but thanks for being available.

So there will be no cooking dinner, no cuddling on the couch, and no privacy. And now I have to make a phone call and disappoint someone else.

I guess it's just been one of those weeks.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A gay highschool reunion...

After probably a year and a half, I finally got to spend an evening with the only openly gay person I went to highschool with.

Leah didn't come out until the second year of her university, and while everyone else wasn't particularly surprised, it certainly took me off guard. After all, this was a girl that I had known to have fooled around with a few boys in her day, especially on one hilarious and fondly remembered evening a few summers ago during a party at my house.

I vividly remember her coming out to me during my first year at university. I was talking to her via IM, and commented on her profile picture, a nice snapshot of her and another girl, both dressed formally and looking great. Their smiles were a mile wide, and I asked who the other girl was, honestly curious about her friends and how she was enjoying school.

"Oh," she said. "That's my date."

Thinking she was being a typical girl, I assumed that this 'date' was just a friend of hers who had attended their residence formal with her. The thought she was being serious didn't enter my mind, as I replied, "She looks cute, how long have you two been together?"

"Oh, I guess a couple months now," she said. "Her name is Elizabeth."

Without ever actually saying, "I am gay," we spent the next few minutes talking about her girlfriend. Looking back, it was a nice experience, and I hope I was one of the people that offered no snobbish, small-town reaction to her sexuality. I myself was still figuring things out at the time, and didn't return the favor of being as candid.

Last night, she happened to be passing through our home town. She hasn't been home for the summer in years, and barely makes more than a few day's appearance at Christmas, so when she wrote asking if I was free I jumped at the chance to see her.

The evening was a flashback to highschool days. I took the same route that I always did from my house towards hers, and grinned when I pulled into her driveway. Here I was, Friday night back home, and I was going out once again with the people I used to.

She opened the door seconds after I'd run the bell, and smiled at me. Her hair was cut shorter than usual, with a shag that I would have found quite attractive on a boy. I smiled as we hugged, and noticed her parents come into the room. We talked for a few minutes about how I was doing, about the old days and how everyone had flown the coop, including their daughter.

"But you, you're so thin!" Leah's father said, sizing me up. I muttered some comment about being on a student's budget, and the conversation changed to something else.

Of course, for the next few minutes, I obsessed over his comment. Good Lord, was I that big in highschool? I don't think I necessarily qualify as being really thin, comparative to the naked boys I've seen. Not that I'm large, but it took me off guard that someone who hasn't seen me in years would make a point to imply I've lost a lot of weight. Wow, has it really been that much? And if so, what the hell was I thinking in highschool?

The only departure from our usual Friday routine was the fact that instead of drinking at someone's house, or rather in their basement, we were drinking in a bar. Leah sat across the booth from me, and our conversation just flowed. We covered the usual topics, catching up on school and future prospects and living arrangements...everything.

Then came her mentioning of Pride Week. I had hoped she would recount her time with me, thinking maybe it would be a good way to segue into subtly telling her about my own sexuality. All I had to ask was, "Did you have fun?" and she spent the next minutes explaining all the details of her weekend.

I was conflicted the entire time. Part of me wanted so badly to say, "Oh, I know, wasn't the weather stupid?" and just have it out in the open, but the other wanted me to tread lightly. While I have no problem with her knowing (and actually really would love to have that open between us), I do question her ability to keep it between us. And really, there is only one person I would fear her letting it slip to, the most probable blabbermouth...her best friend from highschool, Marie.

And so I sat there, nodding along as she told her story, then proceeded to go into great detail about all the recent drama in her love life at school. She goes to a small university known for it's extremely high population of gays and lesbians, as well as a very liberal town that provides a positive space for the community, young and old. And yet, she still maintains that the gay community is small.

"It's all interwoven, these weird triangles," she said. "You probably are dating someone that somebody else you know already dated, and it gets dramatic," she added. No shit.

In many ways, we're a lot alike. Her thoughts on dating seem to mirror my own; we're both not unattracted to relationships of substance, but we both still allow ourselves to have fun along the way. I very much got the sense from her that she's the easy-going one in dramatic situations, and it's often everyone else that gets jealous of the other person. She even really impressed me with her politeness and gentlemanly attitude in a situation she described..."We could have either gotten into a making-out competition, or I could have just not shoved it in everyone's face, so I didn't throw myself on her after she made out with the third party," she said calmly of a brewing love triangle between her and two of her friends.

And that was the most interesting point of our gay talk, her troubles with her friends. "I've got to get myself into the whole 'make friends first' thing," she said. Now, I know for a fact she has a great group of lesbian friends at school, I've even been out with them before. But it was how she described meeting new people that I so related to.

"You just..." she said, trailing off. "You meet a person, and you see so much potential for it to go somewhere, and I just find myself interested in them romantically, or I think 'oh you're pretty' or something, and just fall into thinking of them that way instead of actually just being their friend."

I nodded.

"But, it's hard, I mean I've got to stop doing that and focus on just enlarging the circle of friends. Why does that happen, why do I just jump right to being interested in them!" she said, taking a mouthful of beer.

"Well, it's a small community!" I said. "It's not like other people, where you can maybe meet a date anywhere in life...things are small that when you meet someone you want to jump at the chance to have something with them, because the odds seem to be a lot lower than in the straight community."

If that didn't get her mind whirring, I don't know what would, but she didn't ask me any questions. I thought somewhere in that, in my comfort about talking gay and my understanding of how impossible it is at times to stop yourself from going for more than friendship, that she would have picked up on me. But nothing was said and we carried on to a new topic.

Then the reason I didn't want to tell Leah walked through the door. Marie slid into the seat beside her, and suddenly the urge to come out was shoved back into the closet. In the few first minutes, I was reminded how gossipy and nosey Marie is, and how entirely possible it would be for Leah to accidentally mention it, and then Marie spread it far and wide. I did some mental head slapping, thinking how stupid it all was that I couldn't be out to a lesbian, that I couldn't be out to the few people I still talk to from home because of the small-towns-talk-syndrome.

Conversation continued, and suddenly Leah looked at me and said, "So Steve, how about you, what's new on the dating front?" It would have been a perfect introduction for me to tell her about my current romance, but I shrugged it off with an over-dramatic, "Oh GOD, let's not talk about it, you'll be bored."

In the parking lot, we had our hugs and said our goodbyes and made our promises to visit each other. I stared meaningfully at Leah when she suggested maybe visiting me in Toronto. "Yes!" I said, enthused at the idea, already planning our trip out on the town. "Come visit...we'll go out!"

On the way home, I decided I should probably tell her. Why not, right? Ask her to keep it specifically from Marie, and things should be alright. And then finally we can have that long talk about our gay lives, from day one.

I'm just still not convinced it's the best idea.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Big Gay Weekend (Part 3...)

So here we are, a week after my first Pride.

Last Sunday morning had my mind slightly preoccupied with visions of the previous 24 hours. I lay in bed, a body beside me for the first time in months, and took in my surroundings. My legs sort of hurt from the night before, and for some reason I had the twitching of a headache. I heard the sound of the sky opening and rain slapping concrete...

Oh shit! Don't rain on my first parade!

We eased awake at around 11:30 a.m. and did some rolling around between the sheets. But my heart wasn't in it...a little because I didn't feel top notch, and a little because I started to feel that little feeling creeping into my mind, that annoying voice that quietly said maybe I'm really not that interested in him...maybe we're not going to work...

I tried to shut it out of my mind, and made us some lunch. We threw on some clothes and hit the street to full sunshine; the clouds had parted and we were on our way. A quick stop at Starbucks and I had some nourishing coffee in my hand...then all of a sudden James' hand grasped mine.

I reeled. We've already talked about what we are and are not, and we both agreed we're not 'there' yet, but there was his hand in mine again. Only now, it wasn't heat of the moment gay pride, or post-clubbing sex appeal. It was just walking down the street to the parade.

As subtly as I could, I slipped my grip from his and inserted my coffee cup in it's place. I still feel sort of childish not actually just saying aloud what I was thinking, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings or anything... it's such a fine line between being honest adults and making someone upset at the smallest thing. If he noticed, he didn't comment, and we walked toward the parade route.

On the way, he called his friends. The few of mine that were supposed to be coming with me all ditched me for various reasons of varying importance. I was a little sad, considering I thought people were coming with (the more the merrier)...and I was also relieved. I mean, had I not been there with James, I would have been alone.

But we wound up alone. His friends were at the beer garden, having a few drinks before the 2 p.m. start time. We didn't want to slog through the crowds to get back to where they were, so he said to call him when they figured out what they were doing. It all seemed a little weird to me. After all, these were his friends, and they weren't insisting that we join them, or telling us to wait at a certain place to meet.

I asked James what was up with that, and he guessed maybe the wanted to give us some alone time.

"Oh God, they hated me that much?" I asked, joking but genuinely nervous. It crossed my mind that they may not have wanted some random tag-along at the parade...but then again, they didn't care about me tagging along Saturday brain tumbled it around a while, and in the end came up with nothing other than a vague disappointment that I wasn't going to get to know any of them during daylight hours. If James cared, he really didn't show it.

We chose a lucky shaded spot on Yonge St. and waited for things to begin. We stood there, side by side, and James hugged me out of nowhere. With me already slightly on edge about the whole touchy-feely thing, I asked him what was up.

"Nothing," he said. "I'm just glad I'm here with you."

Sweet sentiment, but I was trying to figure out just what he meant. For the rest of the day he became increasingly quiet and distant, lost in thought about his parents and what lay ahead at home. I kept reminding myself how alone I felt during those moments, and how great it would have been to have someone's hand to hold for support. So we hugged.

The parade started. I went in with a very open mind about what would pass us by, refusing to believe that it was all nearly-naked men shooting water guns at each other. It wasn't...far from it, actually.

Down the street they marched, the young and old, representing all the different community groups, sub-communities, political parties, police forces, varieties of sports, clubs and bars. For every guy in underwear, there were three fully dressed, representing an AIDS foundation, community interest or other support.

Of course, the hot nearly-naked guys were more fun to look at, but it really hit home the number of people who were out to support sexual equality. Not just that, but the differences in ages was staggering; union members that looked to be in their 60's were marching alongside Amnesty International's contingent of under-30 paraders. It was all a big love fest, and sort of gave you that flicker in your heart, the affirmation that you are not alone. Support the other 364 days a year may not be as visible, but everyone was out for the parade.

I've read elsewhere that once you've had your first pride, you become a little jaded. It doesn't mean as much, the second or third or tenth go-round, because you're less 'new' to the whole thing. People seem to agree that if it's your first pride, you think it's some holy groundbreaking event, but as the years go by you become less and less engaged with it. I'll happily admit it was a fulfilling experience for me, one that I'm glad I had and I'm glad was full of the naive glad-tidings other people seem to regard as being foolish.

Of course, there had to be one moment that hit home for both of us. PFLAG marched by, with lots of moms and dads holding signs like "I love my trans child". It was all nice to see, but the last three marchers of their group really got both James and I choked up. There was a guy our age, standing between his parents, and holding a handwritten sign, scribbled on a cotton sheet.

"My parents rock."

It all came gushing forward for both of us, how elated and envious we both were of this boy. Here he was, marching in the pride parade, surrounded by his accepting, encouraging parents who were comfortable and legitimate enough to walk with their homosexual son. For a moment my eyes stung as James leaned into me.

"Oh Jesus, just don't think about it, don't even say it out loud," I said, knowing what would happen to us both if we started talking about it then and there. He nodded and we focused on what was coming down the street behind them.

After three hours, the parade ended and we started walking back to my place. James wanted to walk through the village 'one more time' to experience the whole thing again before the world went back to normal the next day. I didn't really want to, I was more interested in avoiding the crushing crowds, but he grabbed my hand and led the way. It took us half an hour to walk a block through the masses of people, and I have to say the magic of Saturday night didn't carry over to Sunday evening. Instead of enjoying the diversity and beauty of the spectacle, I just wanted to push through the crowd and get to the other side.

The rest of the walk was quiet, with James lapsing into long moments of silence. It didn't look like anyone was home as he walked on autopilot beside me. Seeing him like that, experiencing it all firsthand in another person, was hard; I ached for him. When we got back to my apartment, he put his arms around me and squeezed. Hard. I pulled him in as tight as I could, and we stood there at my door.

A few moments of me trying to be lighthearted, and we were packed up and ready to go. He phoned his cousin as I told my roommate (who had just got back from out of town) about the weekend so far. Any thoughts of us fooling around once more while we had the chance were removed; the mood was awful and neither of us would have had fun.

The ride home was similarly depressing. When we started down the road, James really looked as if he were going to burst into tears. I grabbed his hand and held it on his lap, and we sat in silence as I drove home.

I dropped him off at his cousin's house, so he could feel out the situation at home before going there himself. In the car he gave me a really quick kiss and a big hug.

"There really are no words," I said, almost squeezing his hand off his body. Any attempt at me trying to distill what he was feeling and what I felt would have been laughable; it was a moment of rawness and I hope he understood how much I wanted to give him strength to walk in the door.

"Yeah, I know," he said quietly. "Thank you Steve."

And he left.

I hurried home, exhausted and a little worried myself. My mom knew exactly where I was...but would my dad have realized I was downtown on the gayest day of the year, and coming home in the early evening after the pride parade? I started worrying myself that I was going to be walking into a house full of questions.

But when I arrived, I found both of my parents in upbeat moods. One of the first things out of my mom's mouth (after dad had left earshot) was to ask if I'd had fun at the parade. I took from that that he had not questioned where I was, and I didn't need to worry.

A very short time later, I was tucked in my bed, quietly reviewing my 24 hours. So many firsts, all of them things that I've wanted. And while I wanted to stew, to wonder if it would be another 21 years before I had those experiences again, the questions didn't take hold in my exhausted brain.

My eyes closed, but the smile didn't leave my face.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Big Gay Weekend (Part 2)...

As we stepped inside, our host hugged James, and then myself.

"We go way back," he said casually, throwing on, "but how are you!? Haven't seen you in a while!"

I wasn't surprised at who opened the door...I knew a long time ago that James and our host were friends. He'd never really explained just how close they were, but it seemed that they were quite friendly (but no, not that friendly, you pervs...) Admittedly it was sort of intimidating knowing that our host for the evening was an acquaintance of mine that stretched back a couple years. Hell, I knew him before he came out, but I've never known him well.

I could tell he was a little surprised at the identity of the mysterious Steve that James was now seeing, but he shrugged it off. I'd love to be a fly on the wall after the fact, mind you.

As we stepped inside, James hugged each of his friends and did the introductions. I got a friendly handshake and hello from them all, and generally felt pretty at ease. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, chatting away rapidly with each other. The crowd was mixed; they were all roughly the same age, at at a distance they all looked somewhat similar, though close up you could tell each was a little different than the other. They all had a common denominator in my eyes: I'd probably gladly sleep with them all. They were all, in their way, quite good looking.

Since we had left my place in a hurry, I had forgot to bring a bottle of anything to drink. James had...a 4-pack of some variety of Smirnoff Ice. I shuddered as I drank the sugar-water, then glanced around to notice most of the other guests were drinking something similar. I laughed to myself, thinking how truly campy it was.

I also realized that most of the other guests were just that: a touch on the camp side. Not that there was anything wrong with it at all; they were all fun and cheerful, but I felt almost not gay enough. I mean, we're all homosexuals, but I just felt like I didn't have enough outward gay happening. I'm by no means the straight-jock-gay variety...but when placed in a room of slightly campy gay boys I was afraid I came across as just that.

During the next hour I had a few good conversations and got to know some of the guys a little. We talked about Pride week and what we took in school and the usual get-to-know-you conversations. I also chatted with the few girls who were in attendance, and found everyone to be generally good company.

James, being the lightweight that he is, was quite happy when he finished his second drink...while I was feeling positively nothing. Not in the best interest of the evening ahead, I though, though it would certainly help in keeping me from drinking entirely too much.

Someone sounded the alert and we all prepared to leave. As I was standing in the kitchen dropping off my empty bottle, I had a short conversation with a guy who had just arrived. He complimented me on my glasses and told me I had good taste, to which I complimented him on his really well done highlights. It was really funny to actually get to say such a thing out loud, and we talked about how he usually likes to have them done. It also gave me a little perk up; I wasn't falling flat on my ass, and it seemed that at least one of the boys didn't stop and ask who brought the ugly straight guy to the party.

We all piled into the elevator, James' arms wrapped drunkenly around my body. Someone not-so-subtly asked, "Oh, are they together?" as he moved in and wrapped us both in a hug.

The walk to the club was quick and loud, with everyone practically bouncing with energy. Thanks to some advance tickets, we bypassed the lineup and stepped inside. And there I was, past the threshold. Inside I gazed into a room dimly lit and full of boys. I may have swooned.

Our group had gotten a little split up as we tried to get inside, so James and I headed for the bar and bought an armful of drinks. It was at that moment I realized the interesting situation I was placed in. We were standing in line, with him in front of me and my arms wrapped around him. It was very calming to have someone to hold on to, someone who I was there with, that allowed me to hold him and that made me feel like I wasn't out of place and completely lost. It was also strange, because here I was surrounded with gay boys and had no chance whatsoever to slip into any of their arms.

In retrospect, it was probably for the best that I had someone that devoted their attention to me the entire night. Had I went in just as friends, I would have had to quickly tackle the whole flirt/nod/dance/kiss/etc with complete strangers, something I have no experience with and no idea how to do. But at different points of the night, I would still find myself thinking what it would be like to just go out and play with whomever.

The music throbbed as we danced on the spot, waiting to be served. Suddenly someone caught James' attention, and next thing I was shaking hands with a guy a few feet away, between patrons waiting for drinks. I retracted my hand, only to be introduced to another person, who rolled his eyes back, cocked his head and said something to the effect of, "Well I guess I'm not important to shake hands with." I offered it again, but he declined to shake. I then rolled my own eyes and realized I'd made my first bad impression/unfriendly connection with a bitchy queen.

With energy-drink-vodka-things in hand, we stepped back into the thick of the crowd...or what we thought was the thick of the crowd. One of the group came and took us by the shoulder saying, "This isn't the main room tonight...come with me."

We walked through a corridor, and into a room triple the size of the one we'd just been in, full of lights and fog and hundreds of dancing boys. It was as if the pearly gates had opened and we were presented with nirvana.

Immediately we all plunged into the crowd and music and started to dance. For the next five hours, we danced non stop. I danced mostly with James, but occasionally with one of the other guys or the girls in the group.

For the first time in my life, I danced with a freedom I'd never known. I moved and thrusted and waved like I've never done before, and I loved it. We laughed and grinded , as I watched the crowds around us do the exact same thing. Some were shirtless, others simply made out with each other. They were all mostly around our age, dancing, drinking and groping their way around the room. It was amazing. James and I danced, like everyone else, with enough sexual suggestion to frighten my grandmother to death (and probably my mother too), but it was fun to be able to. It all felt right, a verification of things that have been missing from my life so far.

I don't know when, but one of the girls accidentally knocked my glasses clear off my face. Thankfully I grabbed them as they slid down my chest, and I tucked them into my jeans pocket. Not having them on really didn't effect my vision in the dark and crowded room, and I felt less self-conscious with them off my face. I may not have taken off my shirt, but losing the glasses was liberating all the same.

There were some memorable fun moments, outside of the generally great time. At one point I noticed James making out with one of his friends, who then inched over to me and made out with me, who then pushed us all together and caused a three-way tounging. It was fucking hot.

There were also some moments that reminded me of the positive/negative of being there 'with' someone. While James was a few feet away, dancing with one of the girls, I kept noticing the guy to my left looking vaguely in my direction. He was cute, though not as cute as most of the other guys there. A large part of me wanted to shimmy my way over and start dancing, but I felt obligated to behave myself. We hadn't set out any rules about other guys, and I know it would have just been dancing/a kiss or two, all very innocent...but I still felt gentlemanly enough not to do it directly in front of my date for the night.

My most embarrassing moment came around three quarters of the way through the evening, when we were heading to grab a couple more drinks. James was leading me through the crowd by the hand, when I felt something underfoot. People had been dropping their empties everywhere, and I had just stood directly on one. It started to roll under my foot, and I went down like a ton of bricks onto the floor below. The people around us all looked over, and one yelled out, "Wow, someone better take him home, he's had way too much to drink!"

Being past midnight, and having had a couple drinks by now (though not enough to have caused the fall, thank you), and being mortally embarrassed by the fact I'd just fallen flat on my ass, I rose slowly, and using the gayest voice I could muster, and a fey limp wrist, I shot back, "Ohmigod, I think I've drank too much. Someone take me home?" I didn't wait around long enough to see if anyone laughed.

While I didn't feel drunk by the end of the night, I did feel exhilarated. It was such a great time, the energy of the crowd and the fun of the evening made me feel amazing. Even the next morning, I felt like things were blurry and fuzzy; the lights and the darkness and the dancing all made for a hypnotic effect.

Finally, the music wound down, and the crowd shuffled out. On the street we said our good nights, with a hug from each of the guys, and James and I headed back to my apartment. He wanted to walk back through the Village, so we did en route, to find it as packed as before. People spilled from clubs and bars, and the energy felt the same as before. And also like before, James grabbed for my hand as we made our way through the crowd. While I wasn't super-impressed, I didn't really mind at that point.

A girl staggered by us, smiling serenely. "You're beautiful," she said to me, "and you're beautiful," she said to James. "Happy Pride!"

We finally made it through my apartment door. As I switched on the light, James laughed. "Wow, your back is soaked!" he said, bemused.

I flipped on a light and looked in the mirror. "Eeeew," I said, seeing the dark patch at the base of my back. "That's gross. But doesn't everybody get like that?" I asked.

"Well, not everybody..." he replied.

Great, now I'm the only 21-year-old to sweat out half his body weight when he dances in a boiling hot club for the night. Come on, everyone must wind up this disgusting...right?...

"There's no way I'm sleeping like this," I said, "I'm gross. I've gotta shower."

"Me too," James said.

I went to my room, stripped, and stepped towards the bathroom door. My left hand clicked on the light, and I looked back over my shoulder to see James standing behind me.

"Well?" I said with a grin. "Coming?"