READER ADVISORY: Things start to heat up between Sam and Ernie. Certain body parts are mentioned.
About a month later, on a Friday night, Ernie decided to go out to the Bear Cave with Rob and Michael because every other weekend, when they had the weekend off, that was what was done. They were in their usual location by the magazine rack, sharing war stories about their work weeks. They embellished their stories about police work to play “can you top this”; each of them knew that the others were at least partially bullshitting, but that just enhanced their camaraderie.
“Ernie,” said Rob, “that blond twink by the pinball machines is totally checking you out.”
“Oh, my God,” said Michael, “that’s that guy from the courthouse. Isn’t it?”
Ernie turned to look while trying not to be too obvious about it. “That’s the one,” he said, grinning broadly. “What did I tell you about how some things are just meant to be?”
Michael said, “I wish I had blond twinks like that checking me out.”
“Well, I do ’cause I’m me, and you don’t ’cause you’re you,” responded Ernie. “That, and at least we now know he’s into me for me and doesn’t just have a cop fetish.”
“On second thought,” said Michael. “I don’t see what’s so special about him. I’ll bet he has a real small dick. Look at how he doesn’t fill out those jeans.”
“Sour grapes much?” asked Ernie.
“Um, good morning, Michael,” said Rob, “it’s Ernie. When he gets together with someone, his dick is the only one that gets any action. I doubt he notices the other guy even has a dick. Or so I’m told, of course.”
“That’s right,” said Ernie. “Now why don’t you two go run along and play? I have serious business to attend to.”
Sam had decided that he needed to escape his apartment and live a little. He had fooled around sexually with classmates a bit and had even had a steady boyfriend for a while, but he figured that now that he was out of law school and building his own life, it was time to find a real man for real sex.
He had learned in Sunday school that God did not want him to have sex with a man, but his Sunday-school teachers were not there. As for what God wanted, whenever anyone asked five of God’s self-appointed publicists what God had meant to say, they gave seven answers, none of which differed appreciably from what the person giving it would have wanted to believe anyway.
He had decided to go to the Bear Cave, both because it seemed like a place to meet the sort of man whom he found attractive and because it often seemed that he did not even speak the same language as the twinks at the Esplanade or the campy queens at the Windermere. Besides, the fact that writers for The Georgeport Gayzetteso often railed against the “homomasculinity” of the Bear Cave’s patrons, which readers were apparently supposed to take as self-evidently bad, was a point in its favor. While he had a hookup application installed on his cell phone, the men who showed up on it seemed creepy and desperate, so he hardly ever checked it except out of morbid curiosity.
He showered, taking care to wash the pomade out of his hair, shaved, and changed into jeans and a t-shirt, figuring that it would be better to go commando, which he had just about never done before. After checking the address for the Bear Cave, he headed out the door to the subway station.
The Bear Cave was on East 11th Street in Georgeport’s Near North Side, surrounded by derelict industrial buildings. After reaching the Bear Cave and spending the longest time waiting for the bouncer to scrutinize his driver’s license, he entered the bar. It was still early, so the bar was largely empty. After his eyes adjusted to the light, he mostly saw a few people standing singly. Faded images of masculine archetypes had been painted directly onto the cinderblock walls near a row of lockers. He wondered what the lockers were for until he saw someone start to undress and put his clothes into one. Much of the light came from two televisions, one showing sports news with closed captioning and the other showing porn. He heard someone say, “Hey, kid, this isn’t the Esplanade” but figured that it would be best not to acknowledge having heard.
To his initial astonishment, the three police officers from the courthouse were there, chatting with one another. Then again, the Georgeport metropolitan area’s LGBT community often seemed like a small town, so simple probability should have made their presence unsurprising. The tallest one, Ernie, the one who had spoken to him before, had clearly dressed to show off his physical attractiveness to maximum effect; he was wearing a dress shirt of thin white broadcloth that only nominally covered his built, hairy body and jeans tight enough to show the contours of his large penis.
Ernie appeared to be the most at ease of anyone in the bar. At one point, when Ernie turned around, Sam could see that Ernie had a handkerchief in his back left pocket in some shade of blue; who could tell in that light just what shade? Ernie was clearly in his element, a king holding court.
The three police officers noticed Sam’s presence and exchanged words. Shortly thereafter, the two sidekicks left, and Ernie motioned Sam over. When Sam approached, Ernie grabbed him, kissed him on the forehead, and asked, “So, kid, remember me from the courthouse?”
“Sure do. Nice to see you again.” Sam found Ernie’s forwardness unsettling and yet also arousing.
“Nice to see you again, too. You look even hotter like that than you did in a suit and with your hair slicked back; you look like a real person and not like some hotshot lawyer. I’m sure you look even better naked, though. I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.”
“This is my first time here.”
“New in town?”
“No: I’ve lived in the area all my life. I grew up in Kingsbridge, but—”
“Oh, a blue-collar boy. You may have a fancy job now, and you may have mostly lost the accent, but once a blue-collar boy, always a blue-collar boy. So you came from Kingsbridge to the wicked big city so you could come out, and now you’re here in this bar, looking for cock.”
Sam found it odd and not entirely pleasing that Ernie had just assumed that Sam was one of the ones looking for cock rather than offering it, but he was not going to argue the point.
Ernie hugged Sam tightly. Sam could feel that Ernie was already getting an erection. Ernie whispered into Sam’s ear, “I’ve wanted you ever since I first saw you at the courthouse, and you wanted me, too; I could tell right away. I’m not into big, hairy, muscular men. I much prefer cute boys like you.” Ernie pulled back and said, “I’m going to hit the john. Don’t move from this spot.”
Sam watched as Ernie headed to the bathroom. Ernie eventually emerged, with his shirt completely unbuttoned, and hugged Sam tightly again. After a while of passionate kissing, Ernie asked, “How did you get here?”
“I took the subway,” Sam responded.
“I’m parked about two blocks from here. You’re spending the night at my place.”
“What about your friends?”
“They’ll find their own way home; don’t worry. We have an agreement, in case any of us gets lucky. After all, nobody comes to a place like this to be a choir boy.” Ernie buttoned up his shirt. “Now c’mon.” Ernie headed toward the exit and motioned to Sam to follow.
“So which of them is your boyfriend?”
“Neither. Don’t worry about that. If I had a boyfriend, I wouldn’t have approached you; I want something with just one guy. Um, now that you’ve mentioned that, you don’t have a boyfriend, do you?”
“Good. I’m looking for something with just one guy. I could get head all day, every day, and that’s just from the guys who say they’re ‘straight but curious,’ but that’s not what I want.”
Ernie led Sam out of the bar and to a pickup truck whose tailgate was plastered with bumper stickers for local political campaigns and law-and-order causes. The truck had vanity license plates reading DOMDAD9.