Review 2006

Franchesca asks:
Have you ever had any kind of casual/one of experience with a member of the same sex? Even if just a suppressed crush on an actor or musician etc?

I was reading the other day that Anthony Rapp, star of the musical RENT and film actor with a career stretching back as far as Adventures In Babysitting identifies himself as bisexual. Apart from having to watch his performance in the aforementioned film in a new light, I'm also filled with admiration that anyone can look at their life, more importantly their life experience and realise that actually they do have room for both boys and girls in their heart. Makes the attitude of some straight and indeed gay people look a bit one-dimensional.

Well, my life experience, everything that has happened to me and I'd identify myself as straight. To take the flippant attitude, lusting after Eliza Dushku and wanting to cuddle Ziyi Zhang (to pick two actresses) puts me somewhat in the area but also that I'm generally, always, crushing on someone female proves it to me. Not that there wasn't a period in my late twenties, when, if I'd had anyone to tell, that I did worry because I wasn't in love with anyone and genuinely wondered if I'd lost the capacity. Which is silly.

Anyone expecting some great revelation will be disappointed. I haven't ever had a suppressed crush on an male actor or musician and the less said the better about a drunken night in the Egg Café, during an office party, when after many wines and hearing the top five female lesbian possibles of some work colleagues thought it only proper to return the favour. The non-revelation is that I'm a relatively shy person, appalling at flirting, and that my undergraduate days, with all my gibbering naivety, were hardly the Animal House style sex comedy that I'd been promised. Which is when the one occasion that could at all be considered a casual experience with someone of the same gender happened.

It's my first year, possibly before Christmas when everything is still golden. It's a Friday evening and I'm at the Student Union with hallmates, in the city for the regular STOMP night, four hours of Brit pop and grunge. This is the early-mid-nineties so Oasis and Blur posters are on every student wall and Nirvana is filling speakers everywhere. I wasn't much of a drinker, if at all. But I was incredibly tired having been up early for a lecture (I think) and with so many other drinkers in the room it was almost as though I'd convinced myself I was drunk. I'm already dozy and drowsy, and the details of everything that's happening are already being fogged up ready for the revelatory morning 'I did what?'

I'm standing at the bar, hoping it isn't going to collapse and hoping that they're still serving soft drinks. A man approaches. I don't remember what he looks like, but I have an impression of him being thin with short hair. Somehow we start talking about issues ? I can't remember, although it was probably the wait at the bar. I remember us swapping names, I think, and suddenly beginning to feeling very uncomfortable. Somewhere in the back of my brain I'm beginning to realise that he's chatting me up. I thought I was being chatted up. I wasn't sure.

Not sure enough that I wasn't not suddenly, though slowly, given my condition, trying to size up if I should tell him I'm straight. It could be that he was just being friendly, passing the time, long wait at the bar, and might not like the idea that I was calling him gay in so many words. Even the early nineties weren't as enlightened as the metrosexual now, with it's Queer Eye For The Straight Guy (Victoria Woods' favourite television show apparently), The L Word and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? But then why did he ask for my name? That didn't seem right. People who are just passing time at bars don't do that. Do they? Was this a university thing, perhaps? Were everyone is friends with everyone else?

He was served first and bought many beers. And after succeeding in the human feat of being able to carry eight in two hands he walks away. Which should have been the end of the paranoia, but then I'm thinking. If he was chatting me up was it something I said? Did I put him off? Why is the first person to chat me up gay? What's that about? These are the kinds of things you only think when it's late at night and you think you're drunk I'm sure, and I was thinking them. I bought my coke, went and sat on the edge of the dance floor. And the following happened and it underlined for me what I knew already. I wrote the following the following day, I think, and although I know it's partly fictional and not great prose, the essence is true.
He sweated everywhere. Jeans, t-shirt, jacket all wet with the salty liquid, soggy with no clear way of drying himself out in this atmosphere, humid and steamy. The bench at the edge of the makeshift dance floor was low and uncomfortable. His knees were in front him, higher than his waist, his hands resting on them, his feet tapping in time with the drum-ridden rubbish that was being played, rubbish which had been in the music chart at sometime. Although not a drink had passed his lips all night, he couldn't think straight. He was tired, excited and jealous all at the same time.

Next to him, a weedy guy with national health glasses was comparing tongue length with a half- burned blonde. His eyes were close, as though he didn't want to realise that she was only kissing him between sips of lager and puffs of a half burnt cigarette, both of which she held with the hand that wasn't making the lonely dance under the t-Shirt of her 'stand' for the evening. It was a compelling sight. The other side, a woman a few years older than him, in a large, floppy maroon hat, seemed as bored as he was as she glanced at her watch. It was close to midnight. This was her celebration after graduation, but the friend she had come with had disappeared into the crowd with an ex- boyfriend. He thought better of striking up a conversation - the idea of screaming some half-hearted questions about courses over the loudspeaker which hovered above them, wasn't very appealing. He continued to sit and sweat.

Cigarette smoke wafted through the air, mixing with the fibres of his clothing. He thought of the launderette visit which would follow on the Monday, and the owner, who sat strangely, in the shadows, making dribbling noises occasionally. Unknown to him, the graduate had also been there once and a faulty machine had eaten her favourite leggings. Which why she was wearing odd ones tonight - pink and black, green and yellow, they clashed desperately, but worked - somehow.

She got up and disappeared into the dancing mass, as did the tonsil twins, still joined at the mouth. He waited hopefully for some rock. He could mosh very well, but anything would be better than this hell on vinyl which was making his heart beat irregularly. He crossed his legs, closed his eyes and placed his head on the wall of the stage. He was going to ride this out.

When he opened them, time seemed to have stopped, all movement being held stationary, apart from one thing. Just in front of, glazed in blue light, danced an apparition. Her body seemed to become the source of the music, not just ebbing and flowing with it. Nothing about her was that different from her fellow dancers. She was quite short - shoulder length brown hair. A stripy-blue tank top extenuated a ... generous figure. Though he was all too aware of her, she was only aware of the music - her feet sliding her across the dance floor, until the world she lived in eclipsed a party light.

It felt uncomfortable and excited. He knew he was staring, but his eyes would not leave her. What was she thinking? What memories were hidden under the hair which was hovering her hair and rapidly covering her whole face. He ran his fingers through his hair and she repeated the action, the strands disappearing behind her shoulders.

The drums ended, the synthesizers died. Time began again. The small pocket of reality she occupied that he had invaded disappeared. She smiled at some at some friends at the other side of the hall and disappeared into the crowd. He smiled broadly and stood up to rejoin his friends, who were crashing into each other drunkenly on the other side of the hall. He tried to join in, but it was only half-heartedly. The reality he had just experienced, which he had not asked for was infinitely better than the reality had chosen.
To this day I still don't know if I was being chatted up, but even if I was I wasn't confused by the outcome and what happened afterwards and what it meant to me. Some us are gay. Some of us are bi. And some of us are straight. That's the way we are. And if you're being chatted up by anyone you should probably be flattered even if there's no way you'd reciprocate.


Anonymous said...

Stu, you always know the right things to say. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Due you think perhaps he might have been a bit tipsy, rather than trying to chat you up ?