We first met at some self-help prosperity seminar being held at the Gay and Lesbian Center. It was the summer of 1999.
The facilitator, Mr. Ned Woods, taught us that prosperity has many layers and stressed that money should never be anything more than the byproduct of achieving harmony with the universe and doing what you love. Even if you have millions in the bank, he said, you’re poor as dirt if you lack peace with the universe, loving relationships, health, and fulfillment. He talked about the power of positive thinking, the law of attraction, and our ability to manifest all elements of prosperity into our lives. Finally, after a bit of rambling, he had us all close our eyes and bow our heads.
“Oh Lord,” I thought to myself, “Surely I’m dreaming right now because I can’t help feelin’ like I’m back home in T-ville sittin’ in some backwoods Pentecostal church right before the alter call and sinner’s prayer.” I kept waiting for someone to roll a piano out onto the stage and start playing “Just as I Am.”
Thank God, I was quickly snapped back to reality when he instructed us to think really hard about something we wanted – focus on it, ask for it, receive it, and manifest it.
I thought for a long while and couldn’t really think of anything specific; there were so many things on my bucket list. Finally, I decided to start with something small, something plausible, then if it came to fruition I’d send Ned a note letting him know that this law of attraction shit really works.
Earlier in the day I had noticed this really cute dude, much taller than me. His clean-shaven features were rugged yet gentle, and I tried to imagine what his warm embrace would feel like. The mere idea of stepping on my tippy toes to look into the stark blue eyes that contrasted vividly with the thick blond hair that hung past his shoulders sent shivers through my entire body.
So right then and there, with my eyes tightly closed and my head bowed, I declared to the universe I wanted a date with him. I focused on it. I asked for it and expressed deep heartfelt gratitude in advance.
I found my way to him after the seminar, introduced myself, and began to engage him in mindless small talk. Fortunately for me, he reciprocated, and suggested we go out for sushi. The idea of eating raw fish repulsed me and I wanted to throw up right then and there, but there was no way in hell I could possibly resist that charming smile. So I accepted his invitation and agreed to join him for dinner at “Floating Sushi Boats” in Little Tokyo.
As he politely held the door for me, I felt nauseous. I had never used chopsticks before and was terrified that I was going to send a piece of fish flesh flying smack dab into his eye.
I’ll never be able to erase from my mind the image of him watching with smug delight and playful satisfaction as I awkwardly maneuvered chopsticks and tried sushi for the first time. My hands trembled as I prayed to God the piece of salmon wouldn’t fall to my lap. Thankfully, with Michael’s gentle guidance, the raw flesh miraculously made its way to my apprehensive mouth. I swallowed as fast as I could, reached for my glass of water, and took a big gulp.
His laugh didn’t offend me. I smiled back, decided to be a good sport and try a piece of tuna. Surprisingly enough I liked it, and soon I was handling the chopsticks with relative ease and enjoying the new experience immensely. Our light-hearted banter came easily and flowed naturally. It felt good.
I will admit, however, that by the time the last of our plates were cleared, I felt a twinge of guilt and regret. I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been a bit of a narcissistic ass all through dinner, blubbering on and on like a silly school girl. Perhaps it was nervous energy, but I hadn’t shut the hell up since we’d sat down. All these years later, I’m still embarrassed to admit that at this point in the game I barely knew anything about Michael except that he was from Wyoming and in town for a few days on business.
“Damn it!” I thought to myself, “I need to start asking him some questions, learn more about him, give him a chance to talk. I’m probably boring him to death.”
Fortunately, despite my endless chatter, he asked me if I’d like to join him for a walk to the Lyon Street steps, and I eagerly agreed. I didn’t want the evening to end. Being at the summit of the iconic steps was like a Zen experience. Spread before us was a view like no other, and center stage was the stunningly beautiful Palace of Fine Arts some three hundred feet below us.
“So Michael … let me just forewarn you ahead of time that I like nicknames. So, if ‘Mikey, or Poodle, or Bubba Lou, or Weirdo, or whatever, comes popping out of my mouth please try to take it in stride. Whatever I call you will come forth with great endearment, you have my word, and if for whatever reason I offend you, just slap my ass and call me Sally.”
“As long as you don’t call me late for dinner.” Did he really just say that?
“OH DUDE, come on that’s so cliché and lame!”
“Well, so is ‘slap my ass and call me Sally’ – puhlease!”
Silence followed our laughter as we stood there, gazing out onto the city landscape and into the night sky, the bay glimmering in the illumination of the full moon. I liked the feel of his hands; they were strong, slightly calloused, safe.
“So Mikey, what exactly do you in Wyoming? What are you … like a cowboy or something? And how do you know so much about San Francisco? Did you live here before?”
“Well, actually yes to all of the above. I don’t want to bore you, but long story short, I was born on the east coast, my parents had me later in life, and I’m it, the lone ranger. Anyway, when I was about ten, my dad decided he was tired of all the corporate grind bullshit and decided he wanted to be a cowboy. And so he retired, sold everything we had, and bought six hundred acres in Wyoming.”
“Holy moly, that’s a lot of land. What do ya’ll do with all that?”
“A little bit of everything, barley, dry beans, wheat, cattle, horses . . . my dad did well in his career and doesn’t really need to work to be okay financially. He could shut everything down tomorrow, sell all the livestock, and let the land grow fallow and he’d be fine. But he enjoys what he does and he does it because he wants to not because he has to. Kind of like what Mr. Sniveling alluded to earlier today. By the way did he irritate you too?”
“Ah, yah, a little, but there was something kinda sweet about him. And he did make some good points. I’m certainly glad I went; otherwise, I wouldn’t be sittin’ here on this bench with this really cool dude, never wanting this picture-perfect evening to end. So I’m curious … do you like it there? What’s it like for a gay guy living there?
“Well to be honest, Lair, I’m not sure what I’m doing back there. I left San Francisco about a year ago, wandered for a bit, went to Burning Man, and just somehow ended up back at home with the parental units. As far as the gay scene, no clue. I doubt seriously if there are any gar bars anywhere even close to me. I’m pretty isolated and trying to figure out life … going through a painful break up, I quit my job as a corporate trainer, and I’m just trying to sort out a lot of shit. We’re in the process of trying to sell our condo in the sunset district, so right now I’m kinda back and forth. But most of my time is at the ranch.”
“Does your ex, does he still live in the condo?”
“Yep, and until that place sells, I feel kinda’ stuck. Just wanting a clean break, ya know? Nothing to tie me to anybody or anything. That’s where I am right now.”
His words left me feeling empty.
He called me the next day and started babbling before I could barely get “hello” out of my mouth.
“Hey Lair, whatcha doing this weekend? I know it’s last minute, random, and you’ve probably already got plans, but I’d love to spend the weekend with you. I can rent a car if you like and pick you up from work Friday, or I could ferry over to Marin Friday afternoon, and if you don’t mind driving us around, I’ll pay for gas. Let’s just go somewhere up north. I know this is crazy soon, we just met. And I got all this uncertainty in my life, and I’m probably scarin’ the livin’ shit out of you but ….”
He let out a nervous laugh before continuing. “Damn, I feel vulnerable. I’ve got to get back to the ranch early next week, and I don’t know when I’ll be back in the bay area. It could be a couple months or more and I wanna see you again before I leave. Am I being too forward, too weird?”
I didn’t hesitate, “Not at all. I’d love to spend the weekend with you.”
He sounded relieved. “Okay then, let’s do it. I’ve never spent much time on the north side of the bay, have always gravitated south to the peninsula. You can be my tour guide.”
“Tell you what. Let’s do this: I’ll ferry into the city Friday morning, cut out of work early, and you can meet me at the Sutter Street Station on Market Street for a quick drink, say around two. Then we can catch the 3:15 ferry back to Marin. Does that sound alright?”
“Okey dokey then. Let’s touch base Thursday night to confirm.”
“Sounds good, dude. Have a good one.”
As soon as were off the phone, I called Highlands Resort and booked a cabin. Even if he bailed on me, an alone weekend away would do me good.
That Friday evening as we lounged by the pool, I gazed in his direction, “Dude, I love your hair. I’d kill for hair like that.”
He pushed the sweaty mane out of his eyes and declared, “I’m over it! Driving me fucking nuts. When I leave here on Monday I’ll be flying into Cheyenne where I’ll stay for a few days before headin’ back to the ranch. They’re having a heatwave back there and supposed to be in the 90’s all week. This shit is all getting buzzed off when I get home.”
The next morning as we lingered over fresh fruit, brie, and sourdough bread from Boudin’s Bakery, I blurted out, “I could do it for you.”
“Buzz your head.”
He looked at me with a bit of curiosity in his eyes and smirked, “I don’t think so.”
“Oh, puhlease, Mikey. If you’ve buzzed one head you’ve buzzed ‘em all.”
I grinned wide and teasingly said, “And you love it. Come on, admit it, you love it.”
He rubbed his rugged hands through tangled hair, “You are fucking with me, right?”
“No dude, I’m serious. As I was digging through my bag for clean underwear this morning, I discovered my clippers in there that I’d apparently left from the last time I went away for the weekend.”
“So what are you now, the travelling barber?”
“It’ll be fun.”
He scowled before breaking into a smile. “Let me think about it!”
Later that afternoon, we hiked through Armstrong Woods State Park. Nothing quiets my heart more than being in the midst of a cathedral of redwoods. The joy of being still, completely in the moment, and doing nothing but paying homage to the majestic giants towering above all else in the forest is indescribable. My words can never even begin to capture the pure splendor.
Sharing it with Mikey made it even all the more special.
The ancient redwoods never fail to deliver. I think we both returned to Highlands with a profound sense of renewal and well-being. After a sunset swim and quick soak in the jacuzzi, we retired to the cabin for the evening.
I retrieved the clippers from my bag. “Ready?”
His voice trembled just a bit, and the vulnerability in his eyes intrigued me. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I am actually tempted to let you do this.”
“Oh, come on dude. You’ve been pushing your hair out of your eyes all day, and whining about how irritating it is … blah blah blah. Stop being a wuss. You’re gonna do it anyway, might as well be now.”
I led him to the chair I had already placed in front of the bathroom mirror and he reluctantly followed.
“Don’t we need a cape or something?”
I shook my head no and instructed him to remove his clothes before sitting.
The clippers roared to life, and watching the long tresses fall down onto his naked body was strangely erotic. There was something sensual about it. I glanced downwards and noticed his hand grasping his hard dick, and was relieved that the sentiment was reciprocated.
Afterwards, he looked into the mirror and feigned shock and horror before breaking out into a wide smile and robust laugh.
I led him to the shower, and then to bed. We made love, and the last thing I remember before falling asleep was the feel of his fuzzy head gently resting on my bare chest.
He’s been a constant in my life ever since that magical weekend. He’s put up with my crazy shenanigans for a long time now. Months, even years, may pass between visits, but we chat and text often, sometimes daily. Whenever we see each other, we always pick up right where we left off, and I think we both relish the escape from reality for a few days.
I probably exacerbate more than I entertain, and he’s probably relieved at the end of our times together. I can picture him sitting there in his beautiful garden, decompressing after one of my visits. I imagine his mind is saying something like: “I love that little Lair more than my luggage. I love his whimsical charm and dreaminess, but he scares the livin’ shit outta’ me. I hate him and love him at the same time.” Of course, that’s all speculation.
If only I could get into his head for a minute.
In those moments when we’re connected and his eyes are piercing Cupid’s daggers deep into my crazy ass heart – in these fleeting times I wish I could see myself through his eyes.
On the other hand, when I’ve done something stupid, selfish, or careless, and those daggers get passed along to Cupid’s evil twin, and Michael runs as fast and as far away from me as he possibly can – as far as what he’s thinking in those moments, I never want to know.
Thank God he always comes back.
Perhaps I will always cling to the naïve hope that eventually there will emerge in him a deeper longing that will capture his heart and bring to me more of himself. I sense, though, that I scare him far too much for that to ever happen. And so with the passing of the years, I’ve learned to accept what is. And with that simple gesture to the universe, I’ve been blessed with a beautiful friendship and the lesson that true love does not want. So, go ahead …
Fly, my beautiful friend. Be free.
Photo credit: Bird, Larry Moretz, with permission.
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, cc0: https://pixabay.com/en/pavilion-san-francisco-palace-museum-602553/
Redwood National Park, cc0: https://pixabay.com/en/redwood-national-park-california-1587301/