At five minutes before three I was sitting at the bar having a beer thinking of this new adventure. I hoped Mr Davis liked me, but I knew I could get along with anybody.
Though the bar was all glass, facing the river, it was dark and subdued. The windows must have been tinted to cut the glare.
Typical of New Orleans, it was cloudy and threatening rain.
Every once in a while I could see a flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder. The storm must be far away, but I knew it was approaching the city. The somber atmosphere gave a warm and comfortable feeling to the room. No matter how violent the elements outside, here it was calm and peaceful.
I sipped my beer, loving the fact that I could sit here in this bar and enjoy it.
"Danny, I'm Mike Davis," he said in a low voice, tapping me on the shoulder.
I turned around. "Oh my God!" I cried involuntarily, "Oh, oh Jesus!"
He was taller than I would have thought, and sitting on a stool at the bar I had to look up to him to see his face.
I scrambled off the stool and stood facing him. He was not a foot away from me. A pleasant smile was on his handsome face and I felt a great surge of power rush through my body, and localize in my loins.
He put his head back and laughed outright at my confusion, "You didn't know it was me? How's that for ego building. I thought everyone in the hotel knew who Mike Davis was," and the twinkle in his black eyes settled me down a bit.
He reached to my elbow, "Come, let's sit over there at that table where we can talk and watch the storm." A certain pensiveness came over him and his penetrating eyes seemed to unfocus a little. "I'm going to miss the storms of New Orleans I love their violence and fury, don't you? Quite different from the silent creeping fog of Frisco. Like cats feet. Isn't that what they say?"
"Carl Sandburg," I said as he piloted me across the room. "It's one of his poems."
He looked at me with new interest. "So the boy's a scholar too," and in a louder commanding voice, he pointed to the end of the table by the window. "Sit over there so you can look at the river and the Long Bridge. I'd like to sit here so I can see the city. It's the last time for a while. I know Frisco is an exciting town, beautiful too. I've been there many times and I love it, but I love New Orleans more. It has a sad quality about it. A certain lonesomeness like it's an orphan or something. A city that is just existing, not vibrant and rich. I almost feel disloyal leaving it."
He sighed a deep sigh.
I felt comfortable with him, listening to his meandering talk, but a certain shyness crept over me that seemed to inhibit conversation. I simply did not know what to say.
I was dumbfounded by the fact that here, sitting at this table with me, was the man who sang so beautifully last night. Who showed everyone in the room, so casually, his body in all its' natural spendor. With candor and delight he revealed himself. There was no shyness in him, and certainly no shame or embarrassment. There was no obscenity or lewdness or licentiousness. He simply sang of gay love and accented his song offering his erect cock to those of us who wanted it. The only disconcerting part of his performance was that standing there, naked, he seemed to be singing to me.
"Yes," he continued, "Frisco is a gay town. I think all the gays have moved there. New Orleans is Queersville, with travestites and misfits and degenerates, but there's an excitement here. I'll bet there are more dungeons with chains and candles in New Orleans than you'd ever find in San Francisco."
I appreciated the fact that he maintained the conversation.
I was still tongue-tied, and all sensible thoughts fled like a flock of birds. As he spoke, and we watched the approaching storm, I looked at him and marvelled at his beauty.
He was simply dressed. A blouse-type shirt, cream colored and open to the navel, tucked into loose fitting slacks which were held up by an elastic belt. They were pale blue and blended well with the blouse. He wore topsiders and no socks. A very simple costume and an effeminate one, considering the silk fabric and the pastel colors, but somehow, combined with his self-assured posture and carriage, they accented his maleness. Here was one who was in control. He smiled as he talked and his dark eyes twinkled.
His face was handsome with definite lines and planes, sharp, angular features. He had not shaved, so there was a stubble of a days growth spread over his face. His black hair seemed to be uncombed, but I realized it was meant to be that way, tumbling over his forehead, his ears and down his neck. His lips were full, and when he smiled, which was often, they revealed teeth that were so white and even, that I concluded they must be capped.
He was a hairy man. The black hirsute forest climbed up his neck and crawled across his broad chest. The shirt was not open enough for me to see his nipples, but the impression of them was clearly visible on the silk fabric. They resembled two large inverted dimples. Looking at him and listening to him excited me, blood rushing to my loins.
"But that's enough of Frisco and New Orleans. What about you? Tell me, who are you and where do you come from? Why are you here?"
There was a loud roar of thunder as the storm arrived and the rain pelted the window. He pushed his chair back a little and rested his hands in his crotch. A boyish excitement flashed over his face.
"Golly, I do love a New Orleans storm." He stood up moving to the window, and the soft material of his jeans hugged a growing basket. He touched my hand, just briefly though, and then sat down looking at me with expectation. It was my turn to talk.
I told him about Tulane, looking for a school to go to, an excuse to get by myself for a while, to sort things out, to figure what kind of life I was to live, what life I was meant to live. His affable manner, pleasant and interested, seemed to cause me to open up the dam and let words flow that I had never spoken before. A catharsis that tumbled out of a vessel that had been capped shut too long.
"Yes," I concluded, "I know now that I'm gay, a homo, queer, faggot, whatever you want to call it, that's me. And I like the thought of it. I don't know what comes next, but whatever it is, I'm going to jump in with both feet. This is me and it's my life and I'm going to live it in the way I'm meant to live it."
I fell back into my seat and reached for my beer. My hand shook with emotion as I put the glass to my lips. He said nothing. Just looked at me through his heavy dark lashes, his eyes closed, and he reached his hand to mine and covering it, squeezed it with gentle pressure.
"Perhaps I can help you. That is, help you do what you want to do. I'd like that. Bring you out. Let you live your life the natural way, the way you're meant to live it......It's not an easy jump you know. All your life you've been conditioned to the straight world and then, all of a sudden, you're forced to make a decision that's against everything you're taught to believe in. Then you worry about mother and dad, and how they'll feel about you being queer, and your brothers and sisters, if you have any, and all the other relatives, narrow- minded and bigoted. Believe me, they'll be the most critical, those aunts and uncles. "Danny a fag? Oh, poor Danny's mother and dad," they say as they cluck their self-righteous tongues.
Yes Danny, we've all been there," he said quietly and with a saddening in his voice. "Every fucking queer in the world had to make the choice, and God help those who make the wrong one."
Then he stood up, Well, I'm off my soapbox. For now at least.
Just one last word, and Shakespeare's the one who said it
'to thine own self be true.' Whatecver you do Danny, don't live a lie."
I looked at him, square and taut, "I've made my decision,"
and pulled away, "I'm just not sure......"
"Of what, Danny?"
"I don't know. I'm just not totally with it yet. Take it easy with me, Mr Davis, I'm going to get there, I know. I'm just not sure when."
"I understand, Danny, and I won't push you. We'll have four or five weeks together, maybe more. You don't have to be anywhere until September and neither do I. Who knows, maybe we'll be at each others throat after the first two days, but I don't think so. We'll have plenty of time."
As he started to go, he turned toward me, "I'd like to leave early in the morning. Okay? Maybe eight or so. I'll call you at six to be sure you're awake." And with one of his broad smiles that illuminated his entire face, he turned about, and left the bar.
I ordered one more beer and watched the storm disappear into the east. "Well, I'm off on another adventure, that's for sure."
And I laughed with glee at the thought of it.