Sunday, 05 June 2011
The other night I went to my friend's 30th birthday party, which took place on a hundred-and-some-odd-foot sailboat. It slid out into the bay at 9:30pm sharp - affording us spectacular nighttime views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the elegant Statue of Liberty, and my personal favorite, Jersey City.
Admission to the boat was $20, but, perhaps because I was the second-to-last one aboard and didn't know anyone else other than the birthday girl, the woman taking admission let me on for free. On the boat I ran into a guy (we'll call him Renaldo) I had met once while working at the bar, whose friend's face I had enthusiastically slapped after being promised a big tip in return (more on that later). Renaldo was thrilled to see me, and told anyone who would listen the story of how I had slapped his friend's face not once, but twice (for the camera), which is how I was introduced to Brendan.
Brendan was tall and charming, and jovially tipped the barkeep ten dollars on my single can of beer, which he could afford to do since he worked on Wall street. He was wearing a tie. Because our introduction was decidedly unorthodox ("you could literally see her handprint on his face!"), and because Brendan had already been drinking for a few hours by the time we met, the usual shallow pleasantries of the first conversation were all but skipped, and within the first twenty minutes he had said "I don't know why I'm telling you this" a couple times already.
Brendan had been living happily in Manhattan for ten years, which made his visits to his home of Oklahoma a source of great divide for him. It was while talking about his hometown and his conflicted relationship with his family that Brendan revealed that he was gay.
He wouldn't say that he was out of the closet, but he did look around the boat and say that "everyone here knows," while his family, and Wall street co-workers, did not. While still struggling with the double life that this secrecy entailed, Brendan said that the ten years he had spent in Manhattan had done wonders for his comfort and confidence in meeting men. When he first moved here, he said, the only place he felt safe enough to explore was Craigslist.
"Craigslist?" I asked. "Really?"
"Oh yeah," he said, as though I had been living under a rock. "Craigslist is the place where men who live straight lives go, to have experiences with other men. Now I'm comfortable enough to go to gay bars or clubs every so often, but in the beginning I met everyone on Craigslist. I met some weirdos, but I met some nice guys too."
Huh. Who knew?
Brendan and I kept talking and dancing and drinking on the boat, and later at the pier-side bar. As I was bidding everyone farewell at the cab stand, the same woman who had organized the party and let me in for free asked where I was going. "I'm taking the J," I said. "No you're not," she said - and then she handed me a twenty and opened the cab door. "This is your cab," she said. "Get home safe!"
Can you relate to Brendan's divided experience? Have you ever shared more in a first meeting with a stranger than you have with people you've known for years?