Friday, May 25, 2012
The Family in the Window- Pt. 1 the Front Window
Tristan stared at the baby Jesus nativity scene made of lawn ornaments crowded together in the front window of his home as he stood on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders hunched. All of the figures were there, touching each other by at least one part. His father had said they wouldn't fit but his mother said they had no choice since at least one figure got stolen each year they had put it on their lawn. The Three Wise Men looked like the Three Stooges or a Vaudeville act and the donkey appeared to be leering at baby Jesus.
He was dressed in a red leather jacket, turtle neck sweater, black jeans, and black dress shoes but the clothes weren't warm enough, not after dark. He had chosen it to look nice for his date but as he stood there shivering he found he regretted the thin ensemble. Forty degrees out, snow on the lawn, and he was going out on a date? Who dates in this kind of weather? I should be dressed like an Eskimo, he thought. But it doesn't matter anyway because this time next year I'm going to be at college in California, Texas, or Washington State. Goodbye East Coast, hello nice weather.
He had already sent out his applications in November and now he was just waiting for high school to end, though his date didn't know that. They had met through an online dating service and chatted briefly. He had told his date that he was going to a local school, the date inferred that meant community college so he didn't deny it. That meant that he was at least eighteen too which he didn’t deny. It was close enough.
He heard a horn and he turned to see the headlights of a '57 Ford driving towards him. He waited for the car to come to a stop before he looked through the passenger window to verify it was his date. He could make out the face by illumination of a white street light. The young man in the driver's seat looked just like the photo online: curly, blonde hair, thin lips, and athletic build. The young man smiled at him and he smiled back before reaching for the door and opening it.
The warmth of the car hit Tristan and sent a shiver down his spine making him let out a grunt then a sigh as he rubbed his hands together.
"Cold out there?" his date asked.
"The price of fashion," Tristan said. He held out his hand and his date took it.
"Mark," he said. “Your hands are cold.”
"Tristan, nice to meet you," Tristan said. He got into the car, cupped his hands in front of his mouth and began to blow into them. “Some weather out there.”
“Yeah it is.”
“So you found the place easily?”
“Yeah no problem,” Mark said before shifting the car into drive and pulling away from the curb.
“So have you been to this place we’re going before?”
“Yeah, I’ve been there before,” Mark said. It had only been once to check the place out but he wasn’t about to admit that.
“You go often?”
“Is that your way of asking me if I date a lot?”
Tristan laughed. “Caught me.”
“A couple of times,” Mark said.
“So a couple dates,” Tristan said.
“You date much?”
"I guess I was dating a guy last year. We didn't really do anything formal though. We didn’t really go on dates."
"Last year of high school, that can be rough. Was he in your class?"
“He went to my high school but he was a sophomore.”
“Younger guy, nice,” Mark said and they looked each other briefly before laughing. “Too bad he wasn’t a freshman.”
“Too bad I know. So is this place gay friendly?”
“Basically, I mean a lot of gay couples go there because the owner is gay and you can sort of get away with small stuff like holding hands or maybe even kissing if you don’t get too crazy, if no one is looking, because all types of people come in the restaurant.”
“So these dates.” Tristan adjusted a vent to hit him directly. “See anyone more than once?”
“Are you trying to ask if I was serious with a guy?”
“How many boyfriends have you had?”
Mark looked to his date. “I never really had a boyfriend, like a commitment, you know. Nothing serious I guess.”
“So how many blow jobs have you had?”
Mark looked across the car, Tristan wasn’t sure but he thought he was blushing.
“I’m just messing with you man.”
“Well that’s one thing that’s different than dating a woman,” Mark said. “A woman would never ask how many blow jobs her date has had.”
“Have you ever dated women?”
“I took a girl to high school prom but it wasn’t a real date. We were friends. Hell I think she knew I was gay and that’s why she asked me out.”
“She asked you out?”
“Yeah,” Mark answered.
“Well that’s your first clue.”
Mark laughed. “You’re a pretty funny guy Tristan. What about this guy you were dating? This uh, sophomore you said. How many blow jobs did you guys exchange?”
Tristan held up his hands and began to count with his fingers. It was a lie though. They had kissed a lot, dry humped, masturbated together, and even had one messy exchange as he jerked his previous boyfriend off in an empty theater but there were no blow jobs.
“I don’t need to know,” Mark said.
“No wait, I’m still counting. You said exchanged so I might need to use my toes.”
“Okay, okay, I get it. So was it serious? Were you two out? Did you break it off because you graduated?”
“Yes, no, no,” Tristan said. “I was out but he’s kind of in the closet.”
“Does he have a name?”
“Yes,” Tristan said.
“And what was it?”
“Trying to make sure I’m not making it up?”
“Yes, I have a registry here of all the gay boys at your high school and oh look.”
“Very funny. His name was Evan. Yes, it was serious but we weren’t both out. I was out but he wasn’t. It was kind of weird but not really. It’s not like dating girls. You can take them to the movies, kiss in public, you know.”
“Have you dated girls?” Mark asked.
“That was just kid stuff, you know, trying it out. I got to second base and I was like, what the hell am I doing.”
“Your parents homophobic?”
“Religious?” Mark asked.
“Did you see the front window?”
“Not really,” Mark said. “Why?”
“I’ll show you when we get back.”
They continued to talk as Mark sped along the highway. It was all small talk about television, high school education, and the current economic state of affairs. Tristan found himself agreeing with most everything Mark said and Mark seemed to agree with him too. They laughed at the right time, waited for the other to speak. It was going well. But when they pulled into the parking lot behind the restaurant and waited to be valet parked Tristan found himself suddenly speechless and contemplating how to ask a very important question. After the valet took the car and he found himself shoulder to shoulder with Mark staring at the restaurant. He needed to know so he decided to ask.
“How does this work?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well like, we’re on a date.”
“Yeah,” Mark said.
“And we met online.”
Mark looked him in the face and raised an eyebrow.
“Well we’re both guys. I mean I know how it works when you take a girl out.”
“As in the guy pays,” Mark said.
“Right, so if it’s two guys then what happens?”
“We flip for it.”
Tristan turned to his date suddenly considering if he could pay one let alone two meals at such a place but Mark was quick to pat him on the arm.
“I’m just messing with you. Look the place was my idea so I’ll pick up the tab. Next time you pick the place and you can pick up the tab.”
Next time, Tristan thought, there’s already a commitment to a next time?
“Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy yourself.”
Tristan became more nervous when they stood at the host’s booth and he suddenly worried if he wasn’t dressed appropriately and if it would be obvious they were a gay couple. We’re just two guys, he thought, no one sees anything but two guys, friends really, out on the town. What straight guys go together to a place like this? Rich ones, he thought.
The host greeted them with a smile and immediately began to lead them to their table. Tristan followed behind Mark as he wanted to take it all in and not feel rushed. He smiled at the first gay couple he saw then at the second one, a pair of lesbians in the corner didn’t notice him but he felt assured by the environment. He sat in the chair opposite Mark but he couldn’t stop looking around at the people.
“Nice place?” Mark asked.
Tristan looked to him, swallowed hard and agreed that it was.
“Just don’t order the lobster,” Mark said.
Tristan laughed as he looked at his date as a sudden joke came to mind that he felt too nervous to say. Not unless I plan on putting out, he thought.
After that the meal was easy. Tristan managed to forget that they were a gay couple in a straight town, that they were two young men, or that someone might take a baseball bat to either of them. It was a date. The comfort they had made in the car came back to them to live and breath at their table. Mark became free with his gestures, easy with the touch of a hand as he told a story or wanted to get his date’s attention. Tristan reciprocated that feeling with his own casual touch. They laughed through the appetizer, got serious during the entree, and laughed some more during dessert.
By the end of the date it was easy when Mark put an arm around his shoulder and he let his own slip around the other young man’s waist. In that feeling of holding another person, of being held, he realized that what he had considered his previous boyfriend was no competition. That was high school. This was James Bond with Daniel Craig. His previous boyfriend had been Pierce Brosnan.
The valet smiled at their approach and the car was quickly retrieved. Tristan hated the lack of feeling as they went to their own sides of the car, having to let him go. Mark became focused on the road again and they didn’t talk for a long time until they were miles down the highway.
“That was really nice,” Tristan said. “I had a great time.”
“Thanks,” Mark said. And with that he reached across the car to pat Tristan on the knee to regain some of that lost intimacy.
“I mean it’s pretty obvious but I’ve never been on a date. Not a real one with a guy and all.”
“It’s nice isn’t it?”
“Middle America has no idea what they are missing out on. Gays should be everywhere. They are everywhere.”
“Amen,” Mark said.
“Can you believe it? Why would anyone be so afraid?”
“They fear themselves. They fear their own feelings. It’s easy for a person to confuse sex with emotion, emotion with sex, and not be able to consider the infinite possibilities and the many limitations.”
“Did you read that somewhere?”
Mark laughed. “I don’t know probably. I would like to say it was original but probably something I learned in first year psych class.”
“You’re studying psychology?”
“Yeah, I read all I can about human sexuality.”
“So you want to be a shrink?”
“No,” Mark said. “I don’t know maybe. I want to know about it. Just like I read the Bible and stay up to date with theology if I can.”
“Huh, I wouldn’t have taken you for a geek.”
Mark smiled. “It’s my six-pack abs.”
Tristan looked to his date and a nervousness returned. What if his date was braver than him? What if his date was willing to do things he had never done? What if he wanted to do them that night? He had a brief flash of the two of them kissing, clothes being removed and he found himself getting warm, sweating, anxious. He decided to keep up the conversation and ask him more about his studies before Mark asked him about his own. What would he say then?
“So what do you want to be when you grow up then? What do you want to study?”
“I don’t know,” Mark said. “Keep my options open but you know, you just sort of end up somewhere.”
They continued back and forth with Tristan asking all of the questions until they reached his home address with a few directions thrown in along with the questions. Mark pulled in front of the house and Tristan saw that his parent’s SUV was parked in the driveway which meant they were home. The outside light was on, he hadn’t left it that way which meant his parents knew he was out. The nativity scene still glowed in the window.
Mark shifted to park and turned off his headlights then the engine. He looked to his date who looked back at him. There was an undeniable tension in the car as they stared at each other. They unbuckled their seat belts.
“Do you want to go on a second date?” Mark asked.
“Of course,” Tristan said.
The sound of breathing was broken by the squeak of leather and they both laughed. “Can I walk you to your door?”
Tristan shook his head.
“Can I kiss you?”
Tristan nodded and Mark slid across the bench seat until they could kiss easily. Tristan let Mark make the contact but then he pushed back against his lips as he reached out to take hold of him. He found Mark’s thigh and his hip. Mark found his chest and his back, then his knee to turn him a little. Mark’s hand began to move between Tristan’s thighs, his thumb pressed into the crotch of his jeans and Tristan let out a muffled gasp of unexpected pleasure. But Tristan’s hands hadn’t moved and he was now feeling awkward especially when he considered his family was right there in the house waiting for him.
Finally his hands moved, seemingly of their own accord, though Tristan knew that was a lie, it was really fear and he pushed Mark back for space and a breath of air.
“Wait,” he said. “I have to go this is my parents’ place. And I don’t want to put out too much on the first date. You have to wait until at least date three.”
“Date three?” Mark asked.
“Yeah this isn’t Queer as Folk.”
Mark laughed. “So you’ve done your homework.”
“I am well versed in gay pop culture.”
Mark went for another kiss and Tristan kissed back for a moment and as he pulled away he still sucked at his date’s lip.
“We will have to see about that. But the second date you have to pick the place because you’re paying.”
“Oh, is that how it’s working?”
“Yeah,” Mark said before retreating to his side of the car.
Tristan smiled. A second date, it didn’t matter where. It was all there for him. It all made sense. He opened the car door, closed it, waved to Mark, and then headed back towards his home.
Mark started the car, turned on his headlights and began to drive away.