On the phone, he asks the same three questions he asked on the net: Are you masculine? Are you discreet? What do you know about football? For the first question, I tell him he’ll have to judge for himself; for the second, I stammer something about posting sketches here at the Spreadeagleranch; but once again the last question stumps me. I tell him I have logged many evenings watching football, I’ve run chains at college games, and I know the basic rules. But I don’t know much about teams, historic rivalries, or individual players. He seems satisfied and tells me he’ll come by my sister’s place at 6.
A little while later his gargantuan frame fills the doorway. The dog doesn’t bark, and the baby toddles up to him unafraid. Introductions are made, and he urges me to take the mixed drink my sister made for me in a travel mug for the road.
…and we’re off wandering the backroads of Monroe county in his 70s Chrysler Imperial, a car in pristine shape save for the Golden Retriever hairs on the tufted maroon velour upholstery. He puts The Smiths on, a British group popular about 20 years ago. It is ethereal– sometimes angst-ridden–gay music. He quotes the lyrics in unaccented English and then sings along with the lead, lower by a perfect third. “I picked out some of the less whiney songs to play for you.” The midatlantic has given me a head cold, so my baritone is a false one next to his natural bass. Colonial farmhouses and dormant fields pass in the windows of the large floating sedan.
His place is small and modest, full of friends that apparently come and go at will. More introductions. A comfortable velvet sofa runs around the perimeter of the living room, where the focus is on a large TV screen.
The game is at the end of the fourth quarter. Afterwards his guests leave rapidly and we are alone, our shoes off chatting. He laughs to see how one of my old suede bucks got nested in his big orthopedic shoe. “With a foot my size, my dick should be three times larger than it is,” he chuckles apologetically. Sitting, I am not aware of the foot of height that distinguishes us.
He disappears for a bit and comes back to lay a joint and narrow syringe works on the ottoman. Seeing a needle anywhere makes me nervous, and in this strange place I start to recollect landmarks we passed on our way out here, should I need to retrace my footsteps like Hansel. But his manner recalls my uncle who had diabetes and would think nothing about jabbing his injection right through his pantleg before consuming sweets or alcohol. And it was my uncle who told me grass was an analgesic.
I ask him if he has diabetes. He looks stricken. “Yeah, I thought I’d told you. You poor guy, you probably thought it was smack. I am a medical mess.” He goes on to list pins, extracted bones, shredded ligaments, disintegrating vertebrae and knees, declining eyesight, high blood pressure. When he came up the steps to my sister’s place I thought he had an athletic, almost insouciant gait. Here in his home he moves slowly and painfully; leaning on the wall of the staircase as he goes up. He’s a few years older than I.
“I stopped posting stats in my profile a long time ago. I would meet one guy after another that wanted me to fuck them face down and then they would leave. More than once guys from New York have begged me to take bondage and discipline training to become a master. But I don’t have it in me. Guess I am not mean enough for them.” A wink.
Dinner is at an Egyptian restaurant. He seems familiar with the owner, and we are swiftly led to a corner table. A young blond belly dancer shimmers before us, balancing a sword on her head. Then off to an Amish standup comedian. I don’t understand much of the humor (most of it is regional), but he chuckles quietly throughout the act, the only black man in the crowd.
During the ride home he tells me no man has ever told him that they love him. I believe this, it is said with such unsentimental deadpan seriousness. Of course it saddens me. At my sisters doorway, I burst into tears when I fumble for my keys in my parka pockets and find new bottles of vitamin C, Tylenol and a package of cough drops.
© Tasso 2000