by M. Thomas
I first saw him before he saw me. He was another black guy beside myself who had came outdoors from the hotel on a hot August afternoon. The guy was a handsome man, slightly overweight and graying at the temples. He was carrying a lounger. He wandered around the perimeters of the pool, crossed in front of the sun, and emerged from the eclipse looking my way. That’s when I noticed he had a feminine walk.
God. I looked away trying not to make eye contact.
“You mind if I sit next to you?” he asked. “I won’t be a bother really.”
I looked up and tried to smile. “I’m waiting for someone.”
Actually I’d been waiting an hour for a woman I’d met the night before.
“Oh. Is she here?”
“No. But she’s coming.”
“Well…” he looked around, “I’ll move when she gets here.”
He unfolded his lounger and lay down.
“She should be here any second,” I said and pretended to look for her.
“Oh no problem. When she comes, I’ll go. I just want to sit with someone. You know what I mean?”
He extended his hand. “My name’s Stuart. What’s yours?”
I didn’t want to touch him, but I couldn’t be rude.
“Nice to meet you Eric. What a lovely name, Eric is. So, are you here with the convention or something? There’s so many people here.”
He started talking about himself in such quick nonstop statements that I hardly caught most of it. I got that he was from Detroit, was the youngest child in a large family and was here in St Louis to breakup with his boyfriend. It was a commuter relationship.
Was he trying to pick me up?
“Maybe you should go,” I said. “My lady friend might be here shortly.”
“Has she come?” he looked around.
“No. But…she might show up. I don’t want her to think anything.”
“Oh no. Women don’t think like that. Really.” He laid back. Then he touched my arm. “ Trust me. Women are so much different than men.”
“Excuse me,” I said and got up.
“Where’re you going?”
“I’m just going over here.” I went and got a coke from the outdoor bar, then lingered there hoping he’d get the message. A rush of anger surged through me knowing I’d been stood up. I looked around, now hoping I didn’t see her. A lot of people were sitting at tables and lying in loungers. There were a few in the water. I turned seeing Stuart waving hysterically. “Hey,” he yelled. “Bring me one!”
I got the coke but dreaded going back. My life had been reduced to being picked up by gay guys. And when I thought about it, the lady had only mentioned she might meet me. I had made something out of nothing. Hoping.
I handed him the coke.
“Sit down. She’ll be here,” he said. “And if not, then so be it. It’s not the end of the world.”
I sat down and lay back, feeling agitated. There were too many beautiful women here to be sitting next to this freak.
“So, how come you’re here?” he asked. He had turned my way giving me full attention. “How come you’re not married. You look like the marrying kind you know. How come you’re not?”
“I have no idea,” I said after a long time. The sun was getting much lower and everyone’s skin appeared red. The smell of the pool’s chlorine was heavy in the air. I felt like I was drifting in the water.
I told Stuart about Renee. We’d broken up. Like his boyfriend, she wouldn’t commit. Then, I was devastated finding out she’d been seeing other people. Going to the convention, I’d hoped to purge myself from her. But I hadn’t.
“That’s too bad,” Stuart said lying back down. “Give it time. Time heals everything. At least I hope it does for me.”
Three black women in bathing suits came outdoors and sat at a nearby table. They were God-awful gorgeous. We both looked at them. I couldn’t take my eyes off the one in the black two piece. She had thin eyes and brown shoulder length hair.
Suddenly I realized they never saw us. We were two gay guys!
“Stuart, you have to sit somewhere else.”
“Look, just go somewhere else. I’m not like you. Sit by somebody else.”
“Yes, like you.”
“You don’t like gay people?”
“I didn’t say that. I just…don’t want you sitting near me.”
“What did I do? I’ve been nice to you.”
“Did I say you weren’t?”
“Well…what’s the matter? I thought we were getting along.”
“I don’t wanna get along.”
“I don’t have to go anywhere. No.”
“This is a public pool I have you to know. I don’t have to move.”
I got up and snatched my lounger away. “Stay then, faggot!”
I hauled my lounger to the other side of the pool. No one noticed the spat. I sat the lounger down, and now the women were too far away to look at. Stuart, sitting up, had his back to me. I laid back and noticed Stuart sat like that a long time. I watched him and watched the night creep in.
Only a few minutes passed before the sky lost all of its color. The pool lights came on and the hotel began playing supple jazz music. They were getting ready for the night gathering. Staurt had gotten a drink and was lying down again. The three women were gone. I was lying there alone. I wanted to talk to someone, someone I knew. I got a drink, picked up my lounger and headed for the gay guy.