The building always seemed so dark. There wasn't a sign outside. No flashing neon or even some cheap painted thing. If you lived in my town and you were gay, you knew where it was. You didn't need anything to guide you in. Basically it was a large warehouse space with a set of metal stairs leading up to the front door. From outside, in the summer darkness, it looked like any other warehouse except that there were a lot of cars parked around outside.
A couple of guys got out of their car, laughing drunken laughter and, arm-in-arm, climbed the stairs. I stood in the darkness next to my old pick-up truck and wiped a few beads of sweat from my upper lip. I was drunk. I remember that. I was always drunk when I went to the bar. I had to be. Otherwise, I never would have gone. The summer night was stifling. Standing there in my jeans and t-shirt, I felt like I'd been wrapped in a wool blanket, and in a few minutes I was pulling my t-shirt away from my chest.
Not that I really need to bring Bob Seger into this, but I was a little thin, could'a used a few pounds. In those days I weighed right around one twenty-five. In the shadows, I was as insubstantial as I felt. A curious, nervous thin thing on the brink.
After what must have been five minutes, I forced myself in the door. It was always a shock--the contrast between the humid night and the electric hum inside. Everything was bathed in a purple hue and the music pounded in my ears. The guy at the door looked me over and checked my ID. He did not look gay to me. He probably was, but in those days I did not recognize that there were differences. Small town. You understand.
I squeezed up to the bar and ordered a beer. They were selling some sort of punch--it was pink--and everyone was drinking it. Not me. My adolescent rebellion had not subsided yet (has it ever?) and I would not have been caught dead with one of those in my hand.
The front room was given over to a stage, and some drag queen was lip-syncing to some disco song. It was probably something like "Pull Up to the Bumper," a song I hated in those days, but have learned to like since. I couldn't stand the front room. It was so too open. Too exposed. I was nervous enough, as it was, so I sank back against a wall and headed down the long dark hallway that led to the dance floor.
The dance floor was a room unto itself in the back, and it was an assault on my senses that carried fear and anxiety, as well as hope and desire. The music was earsplitting and the lights swirled across the concrete floor. Dark figures lined the walls and I was transported back to every school dance my mother made me attend.
For some reason, I was always so afraid to meet anyone's eyes, yet I couldn't help but look around. On that night, I remember, I was scanning the crowd, looking off in one direction, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was a firm grasp, and I turned to see a guy, my size, standing in front of me.
He was thin, like me, and blonde, with a handsome face. He looked like some kid you'd have known in high school--a rumpled oxford and a pair of khaki shorts. Not the kind of kid I would have hung around with, mind you, but there were several in my high school who had looked just like him.
He leaned in close and whispered in my ear. He wanted to dance. Wanted me to dance. And I could smell the sharp tang of pot on him. So, we danced. Drunken white-boy dancing that must have looked pretty stupid from afar, and felt equally stupid in fact. But we kept our eyes locked on each other and soon we were wrapped up, arms around each other.
The drive back to my place was done quickly. He had an expensive jeep. I had my old truck. He followed me, and I remember being worried that I might accidentally loose him at a light. But that did not happen and in a few minutes we were on my couch in my apartment, talking and sort of sipping at a beer.
He was handsome. That was what got me about him. In a boyish, jock sort of way. He had good legs with rounded, muscular kneecaps and hairy calves. His hand was on my leg and worked its way up to my crotch, and we leaned in and let our tongues explore. Then we were in my bedroom.
He stood with his back to my bed, and stripped off his shirt. He truly was my size. Same height, about the same weight. And he stood in a sort of defiant way with his arms out from his sides. He leaned in and said: "You want me on the bed? Make me get on the bed."
He wanted to wrestle.
I was so shocked that I literally stood there, frozen. It had never occurred to me that he would want to wrestle. But he shoved me, his hands flat against my now exposed chest and I stumbled backward a few steps. He was in my face, his head tilted to one side. I wanted to lock up with him. Wanted so badly to feel his strength against mine. To try and force him onto the bed, to pin him and feel him squirm underneath me.
But I didn't.
We had sex. Of a sort. And he left.
It was not until the next morning that it all hit me. I could have wrestled with this guy, but I didn't. I was too afraid. To scared to actually cross that threshold and enter my fantasies. I did not have his phone number. Did not know his last name. And I never saw him again expect at a distance, in the bar, in the arms of a big guy who looked like a more muscular version of him.
Moments, mere split seconds, when we live or we die. Our lives are poured out in teaspoons, a poet once said, and before you know it, gone. Now is the time to seize the moment.
Now is the time to wrestle.