A City of Hopes Unrealized
Howard Leonard © 2023
All Rights Reserved
If you’ve not yet picked up on it, I’m Alan. I feel like an Alan. Alan is not a very sexy name, but apparently an adequate one. Being single at fifty, I’m rounding down, I didn’t count on my sex appeal to win me a man. To my immense surprise, I was wrong. Who knew a balding, moderately hairy, average height, not too out of shape, older than middle-aged, Jewish professional man would be a “type”? I’m a type. And seemingly a popular one at that. I first hit my stride on this one particular Friday night. This is about my stride.
The story doesn’t begin where most of the plot picks up. It begins at the Boardroom, a man’s bar and dance hall with a hint of a backroom at the urinals. This is Seattle, a city of gay bars without backrooms. Nearing midnight on a Friday, the Boardroom exploded with men. Paying the inflated cover and walking in, I heard the thumping of my heart drowning out the thumping of the music, at least in my own ears. I ordered my standard rum and Coke, a process which took long enough to add to the mystique of the Boardroom by providing a sense of privilege for being able to hand over a ransom-worthy sum of money. Accompanied by fear, I made my way to the lower-level dance floor. Late enough to be packed, dancing meant moving up and down from one’s heels to one’s toes over and over, forcing me to try to not spill my overpriced drink, as the drink and I were being unavoidably knocked around by the beer-drinking crowd. This was a crowd where Friday meant ecstasy as assuredly as Monday would mean missing work to nurse a hangover.
I began my night by standing off to the side of the dance floor, feeling simultaneously unseen and conspicuous, fighting to dismiss that shy little boy from Massachusetts. The moment was one of those where a night pivots one way or another, in this case, toward the dance floor or toward the exit. I expected to be as surprised as anyone as to which way my pounding heart would direct my feet.
Then I saw him, Mr. Green Plaid. I’ll forever picture and fantasize about his shirt. His shirt had green-and-white checks with thin black lines that were illuminated when the disco laser hit him directly. The shirt must have cost him twice what it sold for when new. I imagined that Mr. Green Plaid had found this exact right outfit only hours before in one of Capitol Hill’s seriously overpriced men’s vintage clothing stores.
Green Plaid had the confidence to know his clothes would be the perfect calling card for his night out. His shirt, tucked into tight jeans, cemented in me a fetish that would forever drive my attraction to both the collegiate boy next door and the Wrangler Man. As soon as I saw him, I lost myself in a fantasy of Green Plaid as a twin, one the cute boy next door, and the other a hot Montana cowboy. Then, knocked out of my fantasy by a stumbling patron, I was jarred into an unplanned urgent decision which would soon tell me what direction my thumping heart and conflicted brain would carry my feet.
I did not head for the exit. I continued watching Mr. Green Plaid for several minutes, long enough to hurriedly and self-consciously guzzle my drink. I made my way to the bar, in almost a panic-driven mode, afraid he’d disappear, but much more afraid to be there without a second rum and Coke.
The gamble proved worth it. I got another drink and miraculously found that my previous spot on the side of the dance floor had reopened. Even better, Mr. Green Plaid had left the dance floor and coincidentally stood close by and was himself focused on the dance floor. Over the next twenty minutes, I concocted his life story in my head. More importantly, the man he had been dancing with, and now stood at his side, and with whom he shared an occasional word, likely drowned out by the music, was clearly not Mr. GP’s boyfriend. Their disconnect suggested that this man might be Mr. Green Plaid’s backup plan for the night. In my head, I was certain that GP must be single, at the Boardroom alone, and a bit short on courage, which caused him to stand beside his plan B to avoid the risk of approaching any man who might carry that plan A mystique.
My second drink now history, I surreptitiously moved closer to him with alcohol enhanced chutzpah and self-consciousness. Before my feet were firmly planted, the crowd pushed a man into me, which pushed me into Mr. GP’s left shoulder. We bumped, thanks to my compromised balance. What luck! GP glanced over and didn’t exactly smile, but he also didn’t dismiss me. I knew I had but a few seconds to commit myself to saying something, or the awkwardness would become overwhelming and an embarrassing admission of my inadequacy. So without having the time to indulge my anxieties further, I touched his left shoulder with my right hand. When he leaned in, I asked him to dance. Green Plaid answered by grabbing my right hand, and he led me onto the dance floor.
I fell in love! Mr. Green Plaid hadn’t rejected me. In fact, Mr. GP danced with me without even looking over my shoulder for someone better. Maybe I had become his new plan B, as there would be no convincing me I’d be anyone’s plan A. Yet even as plan B, this was the first moment I considered I might just be a type someone could perhaps possibly desire. At that moment I felt desired.
I’d like to tell you what happened after we left the dance floor, but there’s not much to tell. Even though my latest love and I hardly spoke given the loud music had destroyed any possibility of being heard, his expression reinforced my new beginning. My journey suddenly moved into second gear, and I had a first taste of confidence in my not yet fully drunken state. Shockingly, I might actually have the power to navigate the new and up-to-now terrifying terrain of dating. Perhaps dating could even be fun. I found myself walking home with an unfamiliar and unpracticed resolve, even though I walked home alone. I had a good evening and a new fetish. I had hope.