Kevin picked up flyers for Totally Naked Club – a gay male nudist group; Gay Fathers, Dyke Distress Line. He had information on gay resorts, the Gay and Lesbian Deaf Association, Safer Sex folders complete with condoms and squeeze packets of lube. His t-shirt sported buttons from Bear Buddies, Gay Guelph, Fags Against Racism, Take Back The Night, -Wymyn2Wymyn, Three-Quarter Time.
He stopped often to ogle the crowd. He enjoyed a pair of hairy muscle men in black leather strips; which he later found were harnesses; with silver studded, black leather jock straps. Beside them were shirtless, head-shaved lesbians with happy faces drawn on their breasts. A bunch of men naked under see through pants snaked through the crowd. Bearded men in evening gowns joked with ordinary men and woman.
He had so many flyers and pamphlets, he’d need another back pack to carry them home. Home? What was safe to take there? None of them. Where would he put it? Mitch would kill him. He put his loot on a bench where someone else might take it.
At the far end of the blocked-off streets there was a stage for live performers. He grooved there for a while to a six person percussion group. They were followed by an earnest man who sang such banal songs of love that he had to leave. He went up the street with the promise that some year he would be on that stage.
He avoided a TV crew that stopped people for on-the-spot comments. The last thing he wanted was his face on TV.
He stood at the threshold of Lubba’s. The sweet jazz lured him in a step further.
“Table for one?” A very tall, thin man approached him.
“Ahh … yes … Is Paul around?”
“Unless the Health Department has hauled him off, he is working the window section.”
The man led Kevin to a corner table facing the street. He surveyed the restaurant. The shirtless man in see-through pants must be a waiter from the tray he carried. Fuck! The guy was naked under those pants.
“Don’t let your eyes pop out.” Paul, in a waiter’s apron, black boots, socks and nothing else, stood by the table. He did a little turn and Kevin saw he wore a thong. “You were expecting dessert unwrapped?”
“Well … ” Kevin laughed uneasily.
“Let me tell you, the tips have been worth it. I recommend the house burger. Simple but hearty, and you will be done in time for the parade.”
“Enjoying the madness?”
“Lots for me to take in. What’ll life be like when I go back to my cousin’s?”
“It will be hell and you’ll leave. Simple.”
Paul returned within minutes with his burger.
“I placed your order when you came in. I’m also taking a break right now.” He sat opposite Kevin. “Robert says you went over well at Big E’s last night.”
“You think he might want me to do something regular there. None of the other bars offer live music.”
“I’ll ask. Maybe it is time for him to get that bar a tad more butch.” Paul jumped up. “Break’s over. No rest for the naked.”
Kevin ate his burger. The thought of a gig at Big E’s had played on his mind but now that he had suggested it, it rushed at him faster than he could sort it through.
“This seat taken?”
It was David.
Paul was back at the table in a flash.
“Ramalousa with a shot of lime,” David ordered. “It’s as if the parade was for you.” David said once Paul had brought his drink.
“Didn’t think of it that way.” Kevin finished his burger. “I should get going to get a decent spot to watch the parade.” He caught Paul’s eye.
“On the house. Our coming-out special.”
“Thanks, Paul.” He kissed Paul full on the mouth. “I’ll be in touch. See you, David.”
Kevin darted from Lubba’s. Home held some appeal. Home, safe from any more new things. When they piled on one another without stop he wanted quiet. Instead he got a fucking parade.
Yves went from booth to booth for aimless chat. Word was out about the queer-bashing, he was relieved that the good Samaritan hadn’t been named.
He told some people about Jake. It was good to talk about Jake, but found it ironic that people who hadn’t visited Jake, as far as he knew, were at all grieved by his death.
More ironic, in death Jake became larger than life. “Jake was so sweet.” “Jake was cute.” “Jake would never hurt a fly.” Too bad Jake wasn’t alive to experience the affection these people professed.
It was time for him to get to the staging area. The crowd, thick when he arrived, had increased to the point where it was impossible not bump into someone.
He stopped at the street light. The music from the beer garden came to one ear and the music from the live stage to the other. Into this was mixed the whistles, laughter, chatter, and scuffle of feet on the street. Last night people had died and today the mourners celebrated.
Trigger was gone! He climbed up on a truck running board to spot Grace. She was arguing with Robert Ing. The palm trees waved beside her.
“You cannot put this on your float unless it can be secured.”
“The brakes will be on. It won’t move.”
“At last!” she saw Yves. “You talk some sense into this man.”
“Yves, sweetie.” The tall spikes of Robert’s collar swayed. “It will be okay.”
“Float regulations say that all pieces must be secured. If that chair goes on there and it isn’t secured, you will be walking in the Parade.” She stomped away.
The photo of Jake that Yves had taped on the Bristol board was gone.
“What are you up to?” he demanded.
“I want Jake to get proper notice. I sent the photo to be blown up into several 2×3 posters. I’ll have them put on the sides of my float. Everyone will see. I’ll have the wheelchair put where my little throne is. A tribute to Jake.”
Yves was stunned. His simple plan had been to roll along in the parade, and those who remembered Jake would see that he had passed away.
“What do you mean, no.” Robert’s fan stilled. “You have no authority to tell me what to do.”
“You have no authority to tell me what to do either. I’m doing what I had planned.”
“Yves, don’t be such an uptight asshole. We have to let people know.”
“Know what! That you are so very touched by his death?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Robert, this is my grief, and I’m going to do what I want.”
“What about my grief?”
“Grief is a cause for you. When was the last time you dropped into the hospice just to visit anyone?”
“Don’t get holier than thou with me, Yves.”
“Or what? You’ll stop donations to the hospice?”
“Listen,” Robert’s faced hardened. “I’ll do what I want. Jake’s death is a perfect opportunity to remind people that HIV continues to murder us.”
“More like a perfect opportunity to add more kudos to your résumé of good deeds.”
“It takes persona to get things done.”
“Not today.” He backed Trigger from the float. “Jake didn’t die to become your latest poster boy.
“What are you doing? You insufferable fucking prick!” Robert’s shrieks followed him.
“I’m doing this my way.”
“But my way can do more.”
“For who? Not for Jake. He’s dead. Not for me. I’m alive.”
“For all of us. For all of us.”
“Robert, what bugs you is someone saying ‘no’ to you.”
Robert gaped, open-mouthed. Yves continued on his way.
Grace was on the corner.
“If looks could kill, you’d be dead.”
“I’ve been dished dead by scarier.” Out of his pouch he fished two smaller photos he’d taken from Jake’s room. There was enough tape left on the Bristol board for him to stick them on. “How much longer before we start?”
“We’re waiting for the mayor. We’ll put you in between the Friends and Parents of Gays bunch and -” she glanced her clip board “ – in front of the Lanzians.”
“A pro-gay UFO sect. More important you’ll be where the Big E’s float can’t run you over.”
Yves went to the slot Grace had for him. What had gotten into him? Must be pumped from last night. Not that he was a pushover but ordinarily he wouldn’t have bothered to stand up to some drag queen.
To commemorate Jake, his Fantasy Island float would appear in the parade. Many wouldn’t know who Jake was, but the empty chair said more than posters presided over by a man in a big dress.
When the crowd moved to the parade route it gave David a chance to check out the commercial booths. As Pride Week grew, so had the number of businesses who set up booths. The drawback was a larger number of so-so jewellers and t-shirt vendors. Not that he expected high fashion, but clothes made of something other than leather or denim would be welcome.
Mark had managed to get out of Java Squared.
“How’s the court case?”
“Ah, I don’t know, David. That was something that popped into my mind after too much coffee this morning.”
“You must still have lawyer blood in you.”
“You think? I might give it a go. It’ll be nice to have something other than my meds to consider. When I got diagnosed, everyone was dying off. Now we’re not.”
“That’s good isn’t it?”
“Sure, but when you had decided to die, had tied up those loose ends, made peace with your homophobic prick of a brother and you are still here, you don’t know what do with yourself.”
“Like getting to the airport to find out your flight has been delayed indefinitely.”
“Exactly. I have to figure out all over again what I want to do when I grow up.”
“Write a book? Have lots of sex?”
“If only. The meds I’m on leave me limp.”
“One of the side effects. Not being able to get it up. How do you explain that? So I go to the tubs, get someone off, and move on before they notice. You can’t imagine the shame.”
“Think of telling some guy ‘Oh hi, you are hot, but no matter how hot you are I can’t get it up.’ How do you feel when they see your droopy dick next to their raging hard on?”
“Don’t start with sex. Get to know them …”
“How much of our sexual identity is invested in your hard, ready-to-service-or-be-serviced-cock? In someone else’s hard, ready-to-service-or-be-serviced-cock? Without cock what is gay sex? Without sex, what is gay?”
“Like yesterday, I pick up this kid. I haven’t done that in years, but since getting out of the hospice I haven’t been with anyone. I had been to the gym and seen all those fleshy, sweaty bodies, and then this hot kid sits on the bench and I said, ‘Hi wanna beer?’ And he said ‘Yes.’ I got him home, got him off, but I couldn’t get it up. Fuck! I got him out of my place before he could see how soft I was. When he was gone I cried.”
“I got so many drugs in me, another one will turn me into the incredible shrinking man.”
“Sounds like that has already happened.”
“David! You bitch! Let me be sorry for myself.” Mark laughed. “Sorry to rag on you like this. Some things don’t fit into my twelve steps. Being powerless over booze isn’t half as hard to accept as being powerless over my own fucking cock.”
“I’ll take your word for that.”
“It’s all a part of being human. I need to remind myself that anyone would find stuff like this difficult. But enough about me. How’s things by you?”
“Bookies closed. I start at Rainbow Books on Tuesday. I may have a design deal for Evan Daniel’s new show. And …”
“I gotta run. We’re having a Pride Day open meeting at my AA group tonight. Why don’t you drop by for that?” He kissed David on the cheek.
“I just might.” For someone whose life was directionless, Mark always had some place to head to.
David went to the Thicket Booth.
“Hi, Monica! Evan left a script for me here?”
She knelt and quickly found a large envelope and handed it to him. “Thanks to Bookies’ closing I am not only stage manager but also assistant-to-the-director for this production.”
“How’s the show?”
“Wonderful. This is my fourth play with Evan, and he always surprises me. Rehearsal yesterday gave me chills. Too bad about Steve Thomas though.”
“Didn’t you know? He and his lover were bashed last night.”
A huge cheer came from the parade route.
“Sounds like the parade is off and running. Aren’t you going David?”
“I have a good view my balcony,” he lied. “Thanks.” He took the script. “I’ll read this tonight.”
“You’ll love it. We all do.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License