The Proving Ground

Adam, a man made of dirt

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Special Post: Serendipity!
This week, Jeb says, "For this assignment, write about your own serendipitous life.  Document a few vicissitudes and demonstrate their consequences. ...blah blah blah 1000-1500 words." I revised an email I had lying about.  Without further ado:

Private Podass and the Good Advice

I’ve been talking a lot about my Army experiences lately. It’s been my near obsession for a number of years. This business of healing consumes my attention, but there are moments when I forget that I am present progressively healing and suddenly find myself simple past healed. Rare as it is, I savor the moment when things align just right for me and I really can’t complain. If I had a complaint as a soldier, it was usually met with the curt panacea, “Drink water, change your socks, drive on.” Even now, I’m thankful for all the driving on, all the socks I changed, but most especially I am thankful for learning to stay hydrated.

On a Monday at the end of July I was walking home from class when I passed Oddfellows Cafe, just off 10th and Pine. My best friend David used to work there and I know a couple of the servers who valiantly persist there. I still had nine and a half blocks to walk and I had to pee, so I went in and asked my friend Kat for the current bathroom code. I latrinated myself, washed my hands, and then returned to the floor to chat with Kat in order to prevent myself from being That Guy who only talks to people when they need a bathroom code. We talked for a short bit, but she was working, so I continued on my way home.

The next day, David and I were walking through Cal Anderson Park when we saw Kat, who is friends with both of us. We chatted and she asked if I knew John from Oddfellows. I looked into my eyebrows for a second while they both gave various other identifying details, but concluded that I didn’t know who he was.
“Oh, a line cook at a restaurant,” says I.
“Did you notice him last night when you came in?” asks the Guileless Kat.
“No, I hadn’t noticed him, why?” I batted my lashes.
“Oh, well he definitely noticed you! He thinks you're hot,” she passes along faux-confidentially. David rolls his eyes, or maybe they rest on me steady, and grins.
“Cool. Uh, neat,” I say, because I am a writer and I know, ya know, words. My ears burned, suddenly aware how hot it was in here...outside in the park.

In all probability there was more talking and we did not just walk silently away from Kat immediately after that. David doubtless said other words, and in retrospect I wonder why the news that a man thinks I am attractive still befuddles me. I don’t know this guy and I have no idea what he’s like or who he really is or why he would think that about me let alone why he would tell that to Kat and why did Kat have to say that in front of David like that and why couldn’t I think of anything more substantial or suave that she could tell this guy back?! It’s a real thing, the little track in my head that my brain runs on for fitness.

I walked to class and didn’t think about random men I didn’t know. Class, a geology lecture, flew by as only a four-hour slideshow of rocks can. I walked back home, and, as I am a creature of habit, was soon passing Oddfellows. I saw Ursula there, also a server friend like Kat, both of whom were working, so I went in.

Ursula was her usual dark, New York chic, too-young-for-her-soul self; Kat’s smile spoke volumes and gave nothing away. I sat at the long table at the back, the one nearest the kitchen. There was a copy of Seattle Times just laid down, a spy’s best friend. I used the newspaper as cover to peek around in the direction of the four cooks visible from my spot. They were all straight. We gays can tell these things right away. You know, like when the waiter at a restaurant walks up to the table and you just know they want to ask you something? Same thing. If none of them were gay, then I’d have to wait until someone new showed up on the scene.
Meanwhile, Kat keeps coming around and eye-asking me, So?! What do you think? whenever she has a chance.
I eye-respond, What do you mean? I can't see him anywhere!
That one! lambent eyes say.
Which one?! eye-puzzlement.
Adam, I'm looking at him right now, Kat glares, like I am blind.
Don't call me blind, bitch, I can clearly see and none of those guys have even noticed I am here! I glare right back.

This last, it turns out, is far too complex a message for eyes to express, so I was left in the dark a while longer. Ursula slinks by with a smile and asks, “So, you like John?”
I tell her, “I don't even know which of the cooks he is.”
She stands behind me, holds my shoulders, and presses her ear against mine. Her hair tickles my neck and I miss having the long hair I donated back in April, before things got hot. “Do you see the cook on the far right?”
“Yeah...” I say, looking dubiously at a skinny cook with a scruffy face and a couple tattoos.
“Do you see the guy right next to him?”
“Uh huh,” grunt I, annoyed that she wasn’t asking open-ended questions like I would’ve.
“That’s John,” Ursula confirms.
“Oh, wow! He’s got nice...forearms?” I try.

The thing about the Oddfellows kitchen is that all the cooks are between 5'8" and 6'4". The counters are waist-highish. On the counters are these metal shelves that stand two feet or so higher. Atop the shelves are stacks of plates and dishes. From where I was, the shortest cook had no forehead and the tallest had nothing above the biceps, a near perfectly preserved Hellenistic statue brought to life. This John character must’ve stood around six feet even, so the shelves rested on his shoulders. I couldn’t really see his face at all, and I told Ursula as much, and she just smirked and went on her smug way. I kept stealing looks over to the line, but all I would catch were those arms carrying a pan to a plate, those hands sprinkling something crumbly over something steamy, every once in a while a flash of ear as he walked past a crack between the stacks.

I went back to my newspaper. One problem with me using that paper as cover, besides the obvious, was that it contained the full breakdown of the Barefoot Bandit. I’d only just heard about this kid’s exploits since I don’t “tweet” and shit, so I was genuinely interested. It caught me, and I lost myself on a trek across North America and back. At some point I realized I was supposed to be on a stalking mission, so I put the paper down, found Kat, and asked her if I should ask John for the bathroom code.
“One six four two,” she says.
“What? No, I mean—” I was trying to figure out a clever way to walk up to the man and strike up a conversation.
Kat just walked away like she was busy working or something, and I took the opportunity to go to the bathroom to figure out my opening gambit. I latrinated again, washed again, and came back in again. Square one. Fuck it.
I walk up to the counter while John faces my way.
“I can’t see your face because of these shelves,” I blurt out, stooping to see him.
John leans forward and his grin hits me right in the stomach and his piercingly blue eyes knee me in the groin, “Hi, I’m John.”
“Adam," I point to myself.

So went my words, but for a pickup line, they hadn’t done too bad. We shook hands and again more words happened that I can’t really remember, which were neither, Whoa, what a babe! nor This curly, short-haired variety of North American Homo sapiens comes from a region known for deciduous forests and men to make your toes curl and your skin go goosey, but if I were so shallow (and my inner monologue was Sir David Attenborough), maybe that’s what I would’ve thought.

We chatted while he worked, then while he closed, then while we walked to nearby Barça. By that time, he was holding my hand. At some point in the evening John described to his group of friends this perfect sandwich he wanted to build that he called the Copa Casandwich. When he finished his description, his eyes danced and my smile cracked wider and I said, smooth as ice skates, “You could make it for me tomorrow.”

I think that is the pickup line I didn’t say when we first met. We made a date to meet for lunch before his shift on my way to class the next day. The hour was so late it was early and I am square, so when we arrived to his front door I did not go in. He was gentlemanly enough not to look disappointed. We settled for a good night kiss, after which my body floated to bed and I stayed on his lips until lunch the next day.

See, it’s good to drink water.

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Hi Adam. I followed the link on twitter to get here. So, how do you know a guys gay by looking at him? I'm asking because I've had a few guys try to pick me up. Just last week a friend's wife said she thought I was gay when she met me. Either everyone's radar is malfunctioning or I look gay. I don't mind, it intrigues me. Here's the thing, I have this notion that I'd sleep with a guy, the one in a million guy, but I'd sleep with 99 out of a hundred women. I'm observant and intuitive so I can usually tell what someone does for a living, what they're thinking, or if they frequent a church or sports club to socialise. In my heart I don't label people, but with language I do. I used to confirm to social bias in school, but it made me a little queasy. Okay, take care, and I'll say hi in another 3 months or tomorrow. :)

GAYDAR: Myth...ithippi.

I have to admit my chagrin that I was so unclear. In fact it is IMPOSSIBLE to genuinely "tell" if a guy's gay by looking at him. I was being cheeky, and I thought that my absurd simile underscored that.

The misconception that a person can *look* gay leads to the tragedy of folks betraying their ignorance by acting on their presumptions. There are definitely many men who adopt similar styles of dress and hygiene who might identify these behaviors as a part of their "gayhood", but in no way do these men hold a monopoly on any of it. Because the shifting subtleties of identity are largely not even visible, I must conclude that "telling" much about a person's identity is impossible, whereas you describe your ability to "tell" people's habits and actions.

There are, of course, folks who would say that the very term "gay" describes actions, but further discernment between behaviors and identities is undeniably necessary and the distinction is an important one. Anything else I have to say on the matter will have to go into its own essay for Cartwheels, and should probably not be written at 0245hrs local time.

Just be you, friend, and let them fall on their faces as they will.

I love the eye conversation so much.

Yay! Thankee, it's one of my favorites, too.

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