Over at Joe, he's made two recent posts that interest me greatly.
I'll cut to the chase. Here in Fort Lauderdale, I am no stranger to those venues providing the probabilities of good friction for the price of a beer or a "six month membership". I seem to have become a sort of sexual "common denominator" in a town replete with men of all ages, ethnicities and accents. Is he forty-five? Is he Jewish? Is he Spanish? Is he hairy? Is he smooth? Is he local? Is he married? All of these questions and more have been asked of me, and the guessed responses make me smile with the mystery of an explorer with a blurred passport. Two nights ago, at a well-attended and very well-designed sex club called "Slammers", someone finally got it right.
A young and shirtless man inserted himself into our feverish quintet and began to sample our various exposed parts. Because he was handsome and buff, we made room for him, wagon-training our backs to all other onlookers who hooked their chins over our shoulders as if to glimpse or sniff the stew in the making.
The new boy made the rounds of each of us, appreciating our components. When he came to me, he suddenly stopped his manipulations, and, looking into my eyes, he said with a startled voice, "You're sober!"
Without thinking, I returned his gaze and simply said, "Yes." The circle seemed to freeze as each man looked at me with the curiosity we reserve for Iranians, police officers, or Klingons. I had never realized just how obvious this frequent condition of mine really is. I could sense their sudden mistrust. There would be no retrieving the energy of this team which split quietly into other groupings as if the caller at a square dance had diplomatically smoothed over the moment of my unmasking.
This is, afterall, the unusual (and now unveiled) truth about me. I am often clear-headed among those who are not. Because of this, I have been able to find my way out of the jungle and back into your village where I stumble into the square asking you all for a drink of water with a promise to tell you what I have seen in those terrible dark places you dare not visit. I tell you of my voyages and while you sleep I am away by the light of the next full moon.
Sadly, I must report that, of late, some beautiful young men have offered themselves up to me, a total stranger to them. I look at these men incredulously, wanting to speak to them of the repulsion they create in me. Their asking me for unsafe sex is like handing me a gun or a knife and whispering a request for its brandishing. I want to tell them how that makes me feel. Like a daredevil in a circus act. Like a hoary and senior Wallenda, grown stupid with altitude and willing to shove my children onto a weak wire without a net. They want me to waste them and that is supremely unattractive. I want to tell them how their behavior makes them as cold to the touch and as colorless as a gravestone. When I walk away from one of them, I can hear him mumble his disappointment. Later, I watch him get what he wants from someone else. I catch his eye and he looks up at me vindictively as if to say "See what you could have had?"
I drive home knowing that we don't protect men by closing bath houses and patrolling the dark corners of bars. That's like stepping on the roach that runs across the floor. It accomplishes nothing. It's time for men like me to shoulder some responsibility for the young, stupid, drunk or drugged who are practically unreachable in daylight. I wonder how much of a difference could be made if, in the course of a night, as I thread my way through a crowd of beautiful young men, I were to single out just one of them as I passed by (Maybe the one with the nervous and insecure darting eyes. The shiny black fauxhawk. The third drink in his hand. A closet full of A&F) and lean in close enough to deliver a private message, "You're beautiful. Keep it safe. Don't lose it." Would he thank me? If he turned his back to me or looked away with annoyance would it matter? I'd have done the right thing, and if it happened often enough, and if it happened in those darker more sinister venues where the deadly decisions happen, would we not be able to avert some of the pitiful mistakes that young men make and then regret too late?
I really have no choice. It seems to be my calling. Look for me to become somewhat unpopular in some places as I perfect my approach of encouragement for good behavior and intolerance for the bad. This would certainly work better if we were all doing it, and so I am requesting that you try it as well, you who are fellow explorers. Don't let me be the sole "vox clamantis in deserto". You'll pay two dollars for a coat check or a buck for a security box for your wallet. Surely you and I can add this one inexpensive little responsibility to our nights out: to tell one young man that he is beautiful and that you want him to stay that way for many years to come.