My continuing thanks to vwl, aka re-c, for copyediting, tightening up the mechanics, and many helpful suggestions. Any remaining inconsistencies or errors are entirely my responsibility.
“You have to do this, Robbie.”
“No, I don’t Bernie.”
“I will consign you to the heap of lame and heartless friends if you don’t.”
“Why am I involved in this at all?”
“She has a friend she wants to bring along. I told her I’d scrounge somebody up so her friend doesn’t feel like a third wheel.”
“The last time we went out, we went with Johnson and his girl. She needs to see that I have some cultured friends, and I need you to talk me up a bit. She could be the one.”
“This will not work out well. Besides, I’m coasting now.”
“Oh, right. Boy toy for the professors.”
“Sally and Joe are nice people, if a little kinky. I mean she really gets off on watching Joe and me.”
“Please, no details. Don’t you see that your innate gayness makes you perfect for the job? Women love your sensitivity. Your innate straightness doesn’t cause women to rule you out. As long as you don’t reveal the mystery, you’re the perfect wingman.”
“You are perfectly full of shit.”
“Robbie, I’m begging you. This is important.”
“All right, sad eyes. But, I warn you. I’m going to wear lavender and talk like a countertenor sings.”
“That I would like to see, even if it costs me what is potentially the most important relationship of my life.”
* * * * *
“Bernie, this is a really nice place.”
Talk him up. “Jade, this was Bernie’s idea. He only takes special women here.” Take that, Bernie.
Jade looked across the table at Mani. “Robbie, I appreciate you coming out with Mani. She’s only in town for a few days.”
“My pleasure, Jade. I always enjoy an evening with Bernie.” I was staring at Bernie while his eyes implored me to look at Mani. I smiled. He kicked me under the table.
The dinner progressed, and I tried to play my part diligently. Mani was very nice, with a compelling Asian Indian presence, and in other circumstances I might have made a play for her. As thing were, I paid her the required attention. Bernie beamed and Jade purred. Score one for Bernie.
I was listening to Mani talk about some obscure French symbolist poet when I noticed, behind her shoulder, sitting at the bar about thirty feet away, a shockingly handsome man in a very expensive suit regarding me openly with a smirk. Mani turned to look toward the god, and I realized both how long I had been staring and how the staring had made me long. I refocused on Mani.
Bernie and Jade were withdrawing into their own private space, a corridor constructed between them across the table to which Mani and I were not admitted. Great. He’s kicking the wingman loose. Now, my gaze was jerking between the guy at the bar and Mani as if I had nystagmus. His smirk was now a smile.
“Robbie, excuse me. I’m off to the powder room.” Now my view was unobstructed. The god nodded toward the little corridor down which Mani had disappeared and left the bar, trailing her. Really? The men’s room?
I started to let Jade and Bernie know that I was headed to the Gents, but the intensity and intimacy of their discussion stopped me. I discreetly rearranged my erection and completed the trio of pilgrims progressing to the restrooms. In the little room between the outer and inner doors, I almost ran away. Don’t get me wrong. When I was a lot younger I once had a little adventure in a restroom, but my frontal lobes had developed since that hot episode of poor judgment.
I opened the inner door to see the god at a urinal. We were alone in the very clean facility. Which one of the remaining two? I was no coward and walked up to the middle urinal next to the god. He was standing fairly close to the bowl with his hands on his hips and smiling. The noise of his stream was deafening.
Then, I remembered my state of tumescence. These urinals weren’t nearly tall enough to catch my stream in this condition.
“You looked uncomfortable out there. Let me guess. Wingman?”
“How’d you get the assignment, considering you’re as gay as I am?”
“Wait a minute. That’s only half the story. I’m into women, too.”
“My God, you’re not serious about that bullshit, are you?”
Cock kill. “As a left ventricular infarction.” At least I could pee now.
“Sorry. Don’t get defensive. I’m ecumenical myself on rare occasion.” He was shaking himself off and getting things settled. “I thought we might get together.”
The god, clearly out of my league, was offering a dalliance. Who was I to turn him down flat? He zipped and moved to the sinks as two guys came in to offload some beer. I stuffed myself in, zipped up, and moved to the hand-washing station.
“Nice. Well, you game?”
As we finished up and dried our hands, I engaged in an intense internal moral debate.
“Sorry. I have to dance with them that brung me.”
“Of course. I didn’t mean tonight.” A second opening.
“No, I don’t think so. I’m flattered, but seeing you would be like hitting my thumb with a hammer… repeatedly—intense but ultimately only painful.”
Leaving after throwing the paper towels in the bin, Phil turned those dark eyes on me. “Think about it.” Then he was out the door.
I finished up and went out to our table. Mani and Jade looked at me with deep concern. Bernie looked irritated, notwithstanding the fact that earlier he had cut me loose.
“Robbie, you okay? You sick?”
“No, Bernie. I’m fine.” How does a man explain a longer stay in the restroom than the one his date just took? GI illness seemed the only possibility, and I wasn’t going there.
The rest of dinner was pleasant, if distracted. The god remained perched at the bar with his knowing little smirk. When our server brought the check, which I ceremoniously presented to Bernie, the god left the bar and started to leave, making a slight detour to our table.
The god stood by me and nodded to our tablemates. Bernie might as well have been an article of furniture. Jade, Mani, and I were enthralled. The god reached to me and pressed a card into my hand while bending to kiss me sweetly on the cheek.
“Call me, Robbie.”
* * * * *
Bernie didn’t talk to me for a month. I didn’t call Phil. My little ménage with Sally and Joe lasted the semester.