Dan was back at work late that afternoon. I still had the whole of the next week off. I spent that time while he was at work sketching at the kitchen table. All the thought and theory of my thesis now had to be transformed from letters and words into lines and drawings. I had to turn the bullshit into virtual reality. It was easy to concentrate and create as I was completely at ease with myself. I was happy. Every morning as Dan and I talked and drank our coffee he would survey the ever-changing arrangement of tracing paper swatches taped to the wall, scanning for signs of something recognizable.
I would always ask, “What do ya think?” And he would reply, “I love you,” then kiss me on the lips.
It wasn’t until I had started to make little chipboard models by the end of the week that he could begin to relate the scribbles to some sort of meaning.
“This is fabulous to be able to visit the laboratory of the mad scientist…it really is.”
“I think it’s fabulous for the mad scientist to have a husband like you!”
“Really, I’m being very serious here. You are creating something out of your own soul, guided by intuition and intelligence. The fact that I find you mad is that you are with me.”
“What is that supposed to mean? You are the most sensitive, intelligent, caring, loving, handsome and sexy man I have ever met.”
“I guess I’m just weirded out by the fact that you are doing something with your life, your passion is your career, and I work as a waiter.”
“Dan, what the fuck! Come on. You can do anything you want in this world. What has gotten into you?”
There was a long pause before he continued.
“That call I had from Bill the other day. He got me thinking after I told him that I would be content being your husband, staying home and cooking for you and …being a housewife! But I know that over the long term that’s not what I want; sure I would be OK, but I really want more…”
“Yeah,” Dan said, his head hung. This was the first time since meeting him that he was depressed.
“I want you, not some hausfrau. I want that strong man who loves me. Whatever it takes I will do to have that. You took this job to help fund our life together while I finish school so that the two of us can pursue whatever life we so desire in New York City...Wait a minute!! What did Bill really say? Cause this argument ain’t working here. He’s got you down on something and you’re beatin’ yourself up over it! Come on, spill it.”
I slid my chair across to his so that we were face to face, our knees interlocked. I stared at him for at least a minute. Softly, I said, “Dan, what is it?”
After a moment and a sigh, “Bill, got the bright idea that because I was gay maybe he was too… don’t ask, I don’t get it either…and so he decided to experiment. Well, comes to be that he enjoys it… a lot! Now, mind you he still has his girlfriend and continues to see her and says he loves her and wants to propose. Then he gets another bright idea…he decides to come out to his parents! So he tells them and they freak, big time. They cut him off, kick him out, and tell him that he is no longer their son! He did this the day after Christmas. They’re in Vail skiing and he gets locked out of his hotel room and his bags are in the lobby. His credit cards have been voided. He has 80 bucks in his pocket. No plane ticket home either. So he hitchhikes all the way. He gets back and his landlord is evicting him on December 31st; his Dad and the landlord are buddies. He moved his savings and checking accounts to another bank and then he dumped his stuff into a storage unit. He’s sort of living out of it too, or his car, or at his girlfriend’s. She doesn’t know what to do about the whole situation. She hasn’t left him but she’s completely at a loss. And he got into this mess because you and I fell in love and everybody loves us even more ‘cuz we’re the cute little gay couple.” He paused to take a breath. “Now I know and you know too, that we did not make this decision for him or encourage him and he made all these really dumbass choices and the fact that he’s got really fucked up parents…but…I still feel responsible and guilty. It makes me want to hide away… to be a housewife…to live some bad stereotype to make up for the sins of being queer and making…”
“Wait a minute…Hey…You’re freaked because Bill is in this horrible situation. We need to help him in any way we can. He needs us! However he got there, well, god help him, ‘cause, well…I’m tryin’ not to laugh here. Bill, I love him, but what the fuck is goin’ round in that head of his. It doesn’t make sense, but for you to put all of that guilt and anger at this situation on your shoulders is crazy. Dan, where is he? Tell him to come here if he needs to. We are his family too and he hasn’t lost us.”
I stopped to catch my breath and Dan leaned forward and kissed me hard. “I love you! Talk about me being the strong one. I guess maybe that’s why Bill decided gay was OK if he thought he’d automatically get someone like you!”
“Oh great, now you’re tryin’ to put the guilt on me,” I said with a laugh. Dan started to laugh too. His head had finally lifted.
Dan didn’t know how to reach Bill, so he called a few of their friends who said they would track him down and have him call. Most said they had been helping him out. A few were pissed at him; they accepted Dan but they were upset by this trend, maybe a little scared too. Dan called Bill’s parents. He had known them since he was five. They knew he was gay and hung up on him as soon as they knew who it was. Dan called home and told his parents, who were friends with Bill’s parents. They hadn’t heard of what had happened but now it made sense why they were avoided by them at the New Year’s Eve party that they all attended. Dad said he would try to talk to Bill’s dad alone. Dan and I passed the phone back and forth between us as Mom and Dad did the same so that we all got to talk to one another on a variety of subjects and life in general.
“Shit, I’m going to be late to work,” Dan exclaimed as he hung up the phone. “I completely fuckin’ forgot.”
“I’ll drive you to work!”
We jumped into the shower and I ironed a shirt for him while he shaved. I pulled on some jeans, flannel shirt, sneaks and a jacket while he dressed and out the door we went. I zoomed down Magazine, passing buses on the narrow two way street. By the time I got to Poydras the streets were beginning to congest and I had to do a little creative driving to wind our way to Canal. I pulled up to the corner of Chartres Street; Dan was going to run from there. He kissed me and flung the door open and was about to get out when he stopped and leaned back in.
He gave me a big squeeze and another kiss, “I really, really love you for what you said today. You make my life so easy for me.” He jumped out, smiled and slammed the door. He turned and then turned right back around and popped the door open. “Forgot my apron.” He gave me this big cheesy grin and then was gone in a flash into the crowds of tourists. I sat for a second enjoying a moment of the pleasure of life until I was rudely disturbed by the blue flashes and squawk of NOPD telling me to move along.
Once school began, life returned to a rhythm. Steve, Dan, Katie and I all had our set schedules that intertwined at various times and days. Saturday was the only full day that Dan and I shared; Sunday was Steve and Katie’s. Dan and my times together were limited but we made the most of it. Even when the only time we had was when I got up to leave in the morning and when we got home to go to bed. Dan would get up and shower with me at 7 am even though he didn’t have to be at work till two so that we could talk and be with one another. I would push myself to get done what I had to so that I could be home when he got off from work, even if it meant having only twenty minutes together before we fell asleep. Jason showed up almost every weekend, arriving Friday night and leaving Sunday afternoon. This rhythm of life is what fed my soul and kept me happy so that when the out of the ordinary happened I was ready, willing and able to enjoy.
The first break was Mardi Gras. Although my schoolwork had stacked up at a geometric rate I still planned for four continuous days without setting foot in Richardson Memorial. Dan finagled his shifts so that he was off on Tuesday and would just have one shift during those last days of Mardi Gras. Jason was going to come for the four days.
“To hell with school. This is all too important to miss,” he told us.
Steve and Katie were off for most of the time too. I couldn’t wait. Dan had never been for an extended stay during Carnival and neither had Jason. Secretly in those few quiet times when I wasn’t in class, or at school, or with Dan, or sleeping I found time to make a series of masks and outfits for Dan, Jason and myself. I knew Steve and Fitz would not be up for the adventure I was planning for Mardi Gras Day, the only day of the year it is legal to wear a mask in New Orleans. I also found the clothes that we would need to wear that day. This was the first secret that I had ever kept from Dan and it gave me a serious case of the guilts, but it was for a good cause, group debauchery!
The Friday before Fat Tuesday I left school about eight. I took the streetcar home and had just walked up to the house when Jason pulled up to the curb. We had matching grins as he shut off the engine and popped out of the car. We embraced and kissed. I snatched his bag off of his back seat and we ran into the house like two little kids. My heart was racing with anticipation of this weekend and seeing Jason made me horny. Dan would be home soon; he had to work until the end of the dinner rush. Steve was at Katie’s for the night and we were going to her house to catch the parades tomorrow since her apartment was off the St. Charles Avenue parade route by two blocks.
“Jason, ya want a beer?”
“Sure, cool, be right back.”
He disappeared down the hall to the bath. I heard the front door bang, reached for one more beer and headed down the hall.
“Hey, Darlin’,” I said as I tossed him a beer.
I was about to poke my head in when he caught my attention and shook his head no. He winked, turned me around and sent me back to the kitchen. “Huh?” He opened the bath door and went in.
“What’s up with those two?” I wondered to myself, “and I’m feeling guilty about keeping secrets from them.” I sat at the table and guzzled some beer.
A couple of minutes later I hear, “Hey Pete!”
“Get naked, close your eyes and come in here.”
“Ooooookay.” I was intrigued to say the least. I walked down the hall. Tossed my clothes onto the bed and knocked, “Comin’ in.”
“Got your eyes closed.”
“Yup!” I cautiously moved into the bathroom.
“Arms out to the side, hold it, don’t move, OK!” I did as I was told. I felt wet fingers making lines and circles all over my body. I could feel Dan grab my balls and cock (he had these huge deft fingers that were unmistakable) and the lines continued around and across my genitals. I felt some Mardi Gras beads placed around my neck and then a mask was ceremonially positioned on my face. They checked the fit and turned me toward the shower. The sidewall of the tub is all mirror and with the shower curtain drawn open it makes a great dressing mirror. Of course it’s been great fun with Dan….and Jason, showering together as much as we do.
I heard them scramble a bit and then say, “Open up!” I opened my eyes and saw that we all had been transformed into Mardi Gras Indians, not to compete with the marvelous beaded extravaganzas of the traditional Mardi Gras Indians, but wonderfully naked ones covered with a purple, green and gold mask, feathers and body paint.
“Oh...my…god, this is great.” I stood in awe. “Wow, look at you guys, oh man, y’all are so sexy!” I screamed. “Okay, how long have you been cookin’ this up!” I wanted to know.
Jason answered, “Well, I started thinkin’ when I was last here that we all needed to have an outfit for Mardi Gras Day. So, this is what I came up with. I brought a mess of clothes for all of us to outfit in.”
“And when did you get into all of this, darlin’?”
“When he saw me walkin’ up the street. He knew you were on your way ‘cause he saw you daydreamin’ on the streetcar. So we went around the block and he told me all about it. We wanted to surprise you.”
“Ya did! Ya did!”
I kissed them both and then turned back to the mirror. I kept staring, and I kept getting hornier and hornier and harder and harder; so did they. Jason started to whoop and holler and then took off down the hall. Dan and I joined in so Mardi Gras had officially started for us. The purple, green and gold grease paint never did come out of the sheets.
Unbelievably, we awoke by 8:30 the next morning. There were too many beer cans on the nightstand to see the clock. I had to roll on top of Jason to find Dan’s arm so I could dig it out and see what his watch said. Dan, rousing, reached out, cupped the back of my neck, and pulled me to him to kiss me. Jason let out a yelp for he was being squished beneath me. Moans and laughter were the call of the morning. I started to laugh when I realized the condition of the sheets. Dan looked at me cock-eyed wondering what my problem was. I pointed at the sheets.
“Ooooh, what will Mom and Dad think of their Christmas present to us?” Dan rolled onto his back with a fit of laughter.
“We’ll just let Jason explain,” he replied.
“And then you can explain Jason,” I retorted.
“Hmmmmmmm…Well as much as I love you Jason, you are going to have to stay just a friend to our parents…for now.” Jason just smiled. I then looked at Jason’s and then Dan’s face closely in the dim morning light and completely lost it. They were psychedelic smears of purple, green and gold that matched the rest of our bodies and the sheets.
We hauled our bodies out of bed and into the kitchen to make coffee and dump the empties in the trash. Then it was off to the bath to remove the layers of colors from our skin and the carpet from our tongues, and begin to shake the cobwebs from our minds. An hour and a half later we were presentable, maybe not to the Queen of England, but at least to the crowds on the street. Steve and Fitz would accept us no matter what.
The parades on Saturday are Iris, an all female krewe, that starts at noon but doesn’t get near Fitz’s till after one, and Endymion, which is what is called a “superkrewe” and rolls down Canal in the early evening. This wasn’t my favorite parade day that’s for sure, Sunday was, but if the weather was great it’s a fun day to be with thousands of friends out on the street. It was February the 20th and the weather for this time of year was superb, upper sixties, bright clear sky, a few puffy bright clouds and a breath of a breeze. Into the polished black Rabbit we piled and off we went winding our way down Prytania Street. Fitz lived in an apartment in what was politely called the “Service Wing” of an old mansion in the Garden District. A family still occupies the main house and some of the wing where Fitz was living but it seemed like her own place. Fitz had made arrangements for us to park in the driveway. Parking is at a premium during parade times and although it was three hours till there would even be a thought of the parade going by there wasn’t a place to be found…at least that was legal. Dan zoomed into the drive and was guided by a family member where to park on the lawn. They still had relatives that had yet to arrive. The three of us got out; sunglasses firmly entrenched across our eyes, and made our way around the side of the house to the backyard. Steve was helping the family set up for brunch. Katie was on the porch of the main house mixing punch. It seems as if the two of them had gotten the five of us invited to her landlord’s family’s “Mardi Gras Extravaganza,” as they called it. Her landlord and his oldest son were going to be riding in Endymion that night and this called for a celebration, an all day and probably half the night party. We were introduced all the way around and welcomed by all. No mention was made of any type of relationship but it didn’t take anybody very long to figure out about Dan and me because we tend to hold hands, almost by instinct. And by the way we touched Jason it wasn’t long before we were known as the Three Musketeers. We laughed at it and had to agree because as Dan put it, “We are all accomplished swordsmen!” When we let on to Fitz and Steve about our take on the moniker Fitz cracked up and Steve put his head into his hands and groaned.
The family served a breakfast of homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs, sausages (which we avoided) and Bloody Marys (for which we went back for seconds and thirds.) Then we decided to venture out to the parade route at St. Charles Avenue and First Street. The crowds were already thick, but loose. The street was full of people. It was a river of characters either on a parade of their own or just trying to get somewhere. We three made it through the barricade of ladders customized with wheels and a seat for two kids and out onto the street. Flowing downtown for a few blocks to see whatever and whomever we could, then we turned into salmon to struggle our way back to Fourth Street where we saw an opening and bailed out. Back at Fitz’s we dutifully gave our report to all who asked on what was happening out on the parade front. Dan and I sat on a lounge chair under the huge live oak that spread from the corner of the yard. Jason took a short stool and pulled it up next to us. He winked at us both, smiled and tugged at his crotch through his jeans. I leaned back into Dan thinking of last night. He probably was doing the same as I could feel him get hard against my back. I looked at Jason’s face and then down to his groin and he was hard too.
“Ok, wise guys, now what,” I asked.
Dan responded, “Do you think Katie will let us use her room?” I twisted around thinking he was serious, but he was digging at me; then he and Jason burst out laughing. Of course, now we were all in the mood with no real way to relieve it until we got home later that afternoon.
Sirens could be heard whooping and whining as the police escort slowly plowed the people to the sides to clear the street. Jason got off his stool and gave us a hand getting up. We refilled once again at the Bloody Mary table.
I grabbed Steve by the hand and said, “Come on, get Fitz. Time to go get us some beads!”
Dan beat him to it and was holding her hand and leading her down the driveway just behind us. I was still holding Steve’s hand a block later when two teenage girls, going the other way, giggled about it.
He shook his hand free and said, “I didn’t even realize it.”
“That’s cuz we love each other and it’s natural.”
“Oh right…well…I do love you, Pete…God, you confuse me.”
I couldn’t help but laugh and put my arm around him and gave him a hug.
Dan came up behind us and put his arms around both of us, “Hey, can I get in on this love fest?”
“Katie, come save me from these deviants!”
“Oh you love all the attention, darlin’, and you know it,” she said as she put her arms around Jason’s neck. “And I love giving attention to you all!”
The five of us found a spot at the base of one of the monster live oak trees that line St. Charles Avenue. We stood in between the huge roots. The police on horses were making their way down, again pushing the crowd back to the sides. It was a never-ending ebb and flow of the revelers around every car, band and float in the parade, only giving enough room to let the parade continue. The convertibles of krewe dignitaries and specials made their way by and finally, off in the distance, I could see the first of the floats.
Maids’ floats, Consort floats and the Queen’s float of papier mache, paint and fluttering squares of fake gold leaf began to trundle by us. Too many floats of regalia before the main parade of tractor pulled barges filled with masked riders in matching costumes throwing plastic beads and cups, aluminum doubloons and a vast variety of trinkets. That is what we came for and had to have as much of as possible. Begging, pleading, perfecting a pitiful face, we did anything to get the krewe members to give up their booty to us. “Throw me somethin’, Ma’am,” replaced the traditional “Mister” for this parade. It took all of two minutes of this to reduce us and 90% of the crowd into screaming ten-year-olds. Dan was especially good at this. He had the face, the charm, the charisma, the height and reach to excel at being a bead whore. I was in stitches from laughing because after he caught a beautiful long set of beads or something special he would turn around, place it over my head, and finish by giving me a big kiss, much to the consternation of the women who threw it to him and the crowd around us. We didn’t care; this was too much fun. Twenty-some floats and ten bands later the parade ended with the sirens from the fire trucks, the spray of the water trucks and the whoosh of the street sweepers. Traffic began to flow down St. Charles Avenue within fifteen minutes. The five of us looked as if we were members of some African tribe. Our necks bulged with beads. It suddenly became painful as we staggered back under the weight. When we got to the Rabbit I pointed at the trunk. Dan took the hint, popped it open, and we all began to unload covering the bottom of the trunk in a mass of tangled plastic. I dumped my pockets that had begun to look like tumorous masses on my legs from all the doubloons. Jason held up two stacks of cups like torches, then flipped them into the car where they fell with a plastic clatter. Each of us chose a half dozen of our best beads to keep around our necks to signify our parade participation.
Now it was time for more food and drink. Breakfast had switched to lunch and Bloody Marys to beer. They were having a crawfish boil like the one Steve and I had given the day I met Dan. I recounted the story to Jason, who must have heard it two or three times by now, as we sucked on the heads and squeezed the tails. Jason smiled and listened dutifully. He loved the story and us too much to even think about complaining. By late afternoon I was fading fast, like the sunlight, and needed a nap. Dan heartily agreed. I asked him if he was OK to drive and he nodded yes. We found Fitz up on the porch gabbing away and announced to them all that the Three Musketeers were off into the sunset. We thanked the family for their hospitality and parking space and they thanked us for being ourselves. We took that as a compliment! Steve was already horizontal on Katie’s bed snoring softly. The three of us kissed him on the lips and said good-bye while Steve mumbled something about Katie. It wasn’t fifteen minutes later that we too were home in bed asleep.
At a bit past seven, Dan, on whose chest my head was resting, stroked my eyebrow and whispered, “Pete, hey, it’s time to go do it again.” I rubbed my crotch up against his thigh. “No, not that.”
“Huh?” I said, having no idea what I had just done.
“It’s time to get our asses in gear to get to Endymion.”
“Oh yeah, right.” I kissed him. He kissed me back.
“Mmmmm, tasty,” he said. Beer, Bloody Marys, crawfish and three hours sleep must make for some wonderful breath. I rolled onto my back to stretch, squishing Jason out of sleepy land. He made the funniest snorting noise as he was knocked out of the rhythm of his sleep breathing. Dan and I lost it at the loud nasal sound came out of this thin boy. Jason was definitely awake at that point.
“We love you,” I said. Rolling out of the bed we made our way to the bathroom, took a rinse of a shower and brushed our teeth. Into the kitchen we rumbled to mass produce and devour six sandwiches and three cans of Barq’s. Back into the bath to brush teeth and hair once more, then to the bedroom for jeans, t-shirt, shirt, sneakers and a light jacket and out the door to the bus. It was one minute till eight.
“Shit, I don’t have change for the bus,” Jason exclaimed as we stood on the corner, the lights of the bus making us squint.
“Don’t worry, Big Brother will cover you,” Dan said with a tad of sarcasm. We piled on and dumped the change into the slot making the machine clink, crank and ding three times. We swayed our way down the aisle past all the others who either looked as though they had just freshened up, like us, or were marching on from one parade to the next. I grabbed the pole by the back door. Jason took the remaining seat. Dan held onto me and the metal bar that hung from the ceiling. The bus weaved its way down to Poydras Street, the last stop during parades. We stumbled out the back door and onto the street in front of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals wandered across Poydras and down the last five blocks to Canal Street. Jason stopped dead when he saw the mass of people. Where during the day on St. Charles the crowds were easily 6 to 10 deep, here it was 20 to 30 deep. Dan and I each put a hand under his armpits and charged ahead, trying to find one spot that had some breathing room for us to fit. The parade had yet to see even the first police wave come through; here the street was barricaded from the crowd, so it only serves as a signal that the parade is thinking about making its way downtown. Endymion is notorious for being late. Each year they kept moving the start time earlier and earlier so that they would get to the Superdome for their party before midnight. I don’t think it’s happened yet. This year was no exception; we could have slept another hour. It finally showed up in fits and starts and then it quit altogether.
Not wanting to wait on it any longer I said, “Let’s go into the Quarter, I’ve had enough of this shit!”
“You got that right,” Dan replied.
“OK by me,” Jason shrugged.
Winding our way to the back of the crowd and then down toward the river we were finally able to get to the downriver side of Canal and head into the Quarter. Down Chartres past the Napoleon House, onto Jackson Square, past the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytere to St. Ann, we turned left and went up to Bourbon Street and the Bourbon Pub and Parade. Squeezing into the crowd inside, we went up to the bar to scream an order for three cans of beer and then squeezed our way back out onto the street. Up and down Bourbon between the main gay bars, Lafitte’s and the Pub we traveled, scoping out the people and the goings on. Up on the balconies there were lots of men with beads around their necks yelling to trade beads for a show of your dick. We had more beads than we knew what to do with in less an hour for we had no shame. The beads showered upon us when Dan and I pulled ours out and Jason reached from behind and stroked us.
I leaned over to Dan and said, “This is much more fun than Endymion!”
He turned and kissed me on the cheek and then said, “Let’s go home; I’m ready for stuff that I’m not sharing with the rest of New Orleans.”
Jason agreed with a deep evil laugh and off we went meandering slowly through the throngs of people letting their inhibitions go. As we crunched through the plastic cups and crushed cans on the street we tried not to ruin our pants by splattering them with “gutter gravy:” a gray brown ooze of indiscriminate and unknown content that settles into puddles in the creases and potholes of the streets. By and large we were successful.
We got to Canal in time to see the last two floats of Endymion go by, but we didn’t stop. We had enough beads to last us for the night. The Magazine bus pulled up to the stop as we crossed Poydras. We ran like madmen to make it. As the bus rumbled around the corner and swung up Magazine Street, it hit its first of what would seem like a thousand potholes on its journey until we got off. All three of us had forgotten to pee before we left the Quarter and were in pain by the time we made it to Upperline Street. I could only make it a half a block from the bus stop before I couldn’t stand it any longer and whipped it out to water the bush that overhung the sidewalk. Dan and Jason walked on thinking they could have enough decorum to stutter step the last two blocks home. When I walked up to the house they were pissing on the bushes to either side of the steps.
“Hey, you couldn’t make it ten more feet!” They turned in unison and pissed on my legs.
“You have the only set of keys; we forgot to take ours,” Dan said laughing as I tried to jump out of the way with little success. I was out in the middle of the street when they ran up to the door giggling.
“Hey, you can’t get in without me, so watch out!”
Then Steve opened the door. “What’s going …”
Dan and Jason ran by him as I came bounding up the steps. I kicked off my shoes and pulled off my socks and then stripped my pants off.
“What are you doing, Pete, you’re butt ass naked on the front porch.”
“They pissed on me; do ya want me to run through the house like that.”
“Will you get in the house!”
“Hi, Fitz,” I said politely as I ran down the hall holding a ball of my jeans in front of my crotch.
“Boys,” she said sternly as I ran by. “Cute butt,” she called out with a laugh as I ducked into the bathroom.
The rest of Mardi Gras continued in the same cycle. Get up, get ready, drink, parade, nap, get ready, drink, parade, drink, get silly and then pass out so that you can do it all over again the next day. Monday during the day was our break, well not for Dan, who had to do a long shift of waitering from brunch through dinner. Jason and I slept off the previous two days, at least till one in the afternoon when I had to get up and sweat the remaining toxins out. I went out into the Garden to dig, weed and prune to prepare for the burst of growth that was about to happen. I had been neglecting the gardening duties that have always been the stabilizing mechanism of my sanity. It may sound corny but caring about a garden and getting down to the earth on my hands and knees kept me grounded psychologically. Jason showed up a while later and sat in the chaise lounge drinking water and sweating in the sun. Each of us had his own way of rejuvenation. Dan wouldn’t be home till eight at the earliest and the one parade on Monday was the Krewe of Proteus, one of the old-line krewes. The floats were still built on top of century old cotton bale wagons with their wooden spoke wheels. The krewe was a secret organization of the old moneyed elite, the people Harley knew. I bet the jeweler that I went to would be up on one of those floats too. This parade normally started on time, tossed beads if they wanted to or to whom they wanted to, and made it to their masked ball on time. Snooty, but I still enjoyed the parade because this was Mardi Gras the way it was and remains in some respects. I respect tradition and that was why I enjoyed seeing this parade. Dan doubted he could get out early but we made plans to meet if he did. Jason and I would go over to a little bar on Milan Street, appropriately named the Milan Lounge, one of a thousand of little neighborhood watering holes that populated New Orleans. This was by far my favorite one. It’s tiny; less than 500 square feet, but its heart was huge. In my five years in New Orleans I had been there maybe twenty five times at the most for a few drinks or to watch sports on the tube, but I was always recognized by the owner. He always made me feel like I showed up every day. Most of the crowd did come every day. It was also where I first met Janet who used to bartend there; typical of a small-town city like New Orleans when you coincidentally move next door to one of your favorite bartenders. If he got out soon enough Dan could find us there or out at Milan and St. Charles catching the parade.
Jason and I showered at about four-thirty. We both agreed it was eerie not having Dan there. We got ready, drove the Rabbit over, and parked near the Milan. We made the rounds through the bar saying hi to a few acquaintances, Ben and Janet, the owner, Dave, and then grabbed a beer before heading out to the parade. The parade rolled on time and kept a good pace. Jason was stunned by the sight of the Flambeaux: black men wearing white masks and outfits carrying a tank of white gas with four flames atop of a pole held in a leather crotch strap, a holdover from the days when there was no other way to light a night parade. By seven-thirty the parade was being washed away. I had a few cups, a handful of doubloons and a dozen beads. Jason had twice as much as I. Back at the bar we waited to see if Dan would come. At about nine we decided to walk to the car thinking Dan had a tough day and had gone straight home. Even though we had each other we both felt somewhat lonely without Dan. A block down Milan I looked up to see that tall wonderful husband of mine with a wide grin, a bounce in his step and his apron flung over his shoulder.
“Hey, sexy,” I called out. Jason picked his head up and smiled.
“Hey, guys, leavin’ without me? Huh. Man was it a tough day! Those hungover tourists are the bitchiest assholes on the face of the earth,” Dan yelled since he was still a half a block away.
“Damn straight you are,” came a voice from a dark porch. We looked at each other and laughed.
“Well, you’re in a good mood in spite of it,” I said softly to him as I gave him a hug and a kiss. Dan then turned and gave Jason the same.
“I’m in a great mood ‘cause I’m with you guys now, and we need to turn around and go get a beer to make me even happier. I need a little hair of the dog to get the last of last night’s hangover out of me!”
“Was the hungover waiter bitchy to his customers?”
“Almost…almost, but my mother taught me well,” he said with a laugh.
“Anyway, I don’t want to have to look for another job when I have to survive only six or eight more months!”
“Oh, and pray tell where are you going?” I ask sarcastically.
Dan turned to Jason and said, “Been cheeky like this all day?”
“No, he was in the Garden all afternoon.”
“Oh, the dirt and pollen’s got him high.” Dan put his arm around me and spoke softly, “I’m really glad you got the chance to get some time with the plants.” He understood without question what it did for me. We hopped up the one-step into the Milan and ordered a round. Ben and Janet were sitting at the corner of the bar.
Ben turned to Dave and said with the ultimate dry sarcasm, “We’ll pay for those assholes’ beers.” Ben gave his trademark sly grin.
Janet let out a bellow of a laugh and said, “Oh no, it’s the Three Musketeers, watch out for their swords!” We had told them of the joke. The five of us had a hearty laugh while the rest of the bar looked at us bewildered.
We made it home by ten-thirty; Dan needed to have a good crash since the first parades get going by eight thirty in the morning, Fat Tuesday. We wanted to catch as many as possible so we were snoring in dreamland by eleven o’clock.
I didn’t want to get up the next day. I guess I didn’t want it to end. Jason would be gone and I would be back at my desk for the ten-week marathon until school was over. After five years of college I couldn’t believe it was that close. With midnight approaching, my final Mardi Gras of innocence was coming to an end. I had to grow up once Lent began. I had no idea why these thoughts entered my brain but they affected me wholly and deep to my core. Dan actually got angry with me for the first time since we had met when I wouldn’t get out of bed.
“What is the matter with you, Pete? Are you sick?”
“No. I just don’t want to get up.”
“Peter Gerhard Langer, talk to me, what’s up?” I lay silent, looking at Dan.
“Goddammit, Pete! You are supremely pissin’ me off.” I felt guilty over making Dan mad. I felt ashamed of doing it in front of Jason. “Tiger, give us a minute would ya, please.”
Jason nodded and went across the hall to the bath. Dan got back into bed and nestled up to me.
“Pete, come on, what’s the deal?”
I stared at him for awhile and blinked my eyes. “I don’t want this to end; I have the strangest feeling about graduation and moving on and the changes that we will have to endure soon. And it all begins with Mardi Gras ending.”
Dan stared at me awhile and then stated, “So Ash Wednesday won’t come if you stay in bed? Oh shit, Pete…”
He burst out laughing and after a second so did I. “You are a beauty. No wonder I love you more than I could imagine possible. Look, you even make me mad and I love you more! Come on you silly boy.” We got to the side of the bed sitting with our arms around one another. “To tell you the truth, I’ve had nerves about all the changes too. It was easy to finish school and move here to be with you because I wanted it so much. Now when you finish school we have to decide what’s best for both of us. Not as easy a task. Saturday, we sit down and really talk about it. OK?”
“Yes, please, Dan, I need you in my life more than anything.”
“We need each other more than anything. Now, come on.” He pushed me up onto my feet and then slapped my ass but good. “And you needed that more than anything too!” I turned around about to get mad but knew in my heart that he was right.
When we were in the shower Jason saw the outline of Dan’s hand on my ass and said, “Oh, I thought I heard something.”
Dan stared at Jason and said sarcastically, “Yeah, and if you get out of line little boy they’ll be some for you too!”
“Oooooh, Daddy, I’ve been a bad boy,” Jason cooed back at Dan as he stuck his ass at him. We all started to laugh. The Three Musketeers were back together again ready to take on New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day!
We were in the bedroom and about to get dressed when I went to the closet and pulled out the masks I had made and placed them on the bed.
“What’s this, Pete,” Dan asked, his face contorted.
“I made these costumes for the three of us for today as a surprise.”
“But, what about…the Indians…why didn’t you tell us before?”
“I couldn’t let this bring down the fun we had the other day.”
“Is that why you had that little pout on your face when you first saw us? Oh man, we had beaten you to the punch. Shit, that’s why it ain’t cool to keep things from one another.”
I smiled weakly at him. Jason hung his head. Now he was feeling bad over the situation. I went to him and gave his naked body a hug.
“Hey, Jason,” I said quietly, “I am not upset with you. How could I be? You were giving to the group, it’s cool.”
Dan picked up one of the masks and ran his fingers over the multicolored beadwork that radiated across the masks in swirling patterns. He caressed the feathers that blossomed from one eyebrow and rubbed the soft colored leather that fanned out in ripples from the edges.
“Wow, you really put a lot of time into these. They are really amazing…like you,” Dan said with a smile and a wink.
Jason put both of his hands on my butt and pulled our crotches tight. He leaned back and said, “Pete, we’ve done the Indian thing already. Besides, we can’t ruin another set of sheets! Let’s get dressed! OK?”
I leaned forward and kissed him hard making us fall backwards onto the bed. Jason giggled as I began to tickle him. Dan grabbed the masks saving them from our thrashing.
We heard the front door bang and Steve yell, “Hey, stop fuckin’ around…oops sorry…Come on y’all, ya ready for Gras! Times a wastin’ and coconuts are bein’ thrown!”
Dan stuck his head out the door. Steve could see into the bedroom that we were all still naked. He shook his head.
“Hey, no fuckin’ goin’ on at the moment, but we will be finished fuckin’ around, dressed and ready to go in ten, OK?” Dan said, giving that big cheesy grin of his to Steve.
“I hope you all are wearing more than that today; it’s chilly out there.”
Dan turned to me, holding the masks and asked, “Yeah, Mr. Planner Man, what are we wearing with this?” I reached up to the top of the closet and brought out a big shopping bag; inside were black tights, black turtlenecks. I dove back into the closet and hanging on a nail behind the row of clothes were three multicolored capes that I found in a costume shop.
“You have gone all out, except what about shoes? Jason’s OK, ‘cause he has his black sneaks, but what about me?”
“Dan, how could I forget about you?” I said with a devious grin. The closet once more produced two sets of old black sneakers, spray painted, but black.
“Those are the sneakers I threw away last month!”
“You thought you had thrown away. I rescued them for a Mardi Gras resurrection.”
“You crazy bastard, I love you!”
“Come on, let’s get dressed, “Dan exclaimed.
“Wait, one more thing. I don’t want you two not to shoot a box ‘cause you’re too cold and shriveled up.” I opened the bottom dresser drawer and took out three packages of thermal underwear.
“My God, you thought of everything; I was getting worried that I’d be freezing my skinny little butt out there today,” Jason said relieved.
“No, you’ll just be showing off that beautiful butt of yours all day,” I said. We pulled on the thermals, then socks, then the tights and turtlenecks. We slid into our sneakers and tied the capes around our necks.
Dan looked at me and said, “Ooops, no pockets!”
“I AM the Planner Man! Fear not,” I said, my finger pointed into the air. I dove back into the closet.
“Oh, he scares me when he gets like this,” Dan said to Jason rolling his eyes.
Jason was in awe; he had never seen me get so involved in something before…well except my relationship with Dan and himself. I brought six more things out, three small cloth bags that hung over the shoulder on a braided gold cord that were made from a cloth similar to the cape and a belt made of the same cloth with tassels to finish off the ensemble.
“We really are the Three Musketeers now, multicolored ones, but Musketeers none the less,” Dan proclaimed.
“Where’s our swords?” Jason asked sarcastically.
Dan grabbed his crotch and smiled at Jason. We all laughed, pulled on our masks, checked ourselves in the mirror and opened the door.
Steve and Fitz were waiting in the living room anxious to go when we filed out of the bedroom. They had driven up in her car to get us and we were going back down to her place again. Fitz’s place was four blocks from the spot where Zulu turns onto St. Charles and Rex follows behind in time. There wasn’t the extra room in the driveway today so they thought they’d come get us. The two of them stared expressionless at us for at least five seconds.
“Oh…My…God…you guys are not…” Steve said in disbelief before Katie cut him off by doubling over in laughter.
It took her a minute to control herself enough to say, “You guys look fantastic and… you got the balls to pull this off!” Even Steve was in hysterics over this point of view. The Three Musketeers marched out of the house followed by the two “normals.” We climbed into the car and zoomed off to take on the crowds.
The family at Katie’s house immediately caught on to the joke and was astounded that we had created these outfits in less than three days. The mother came up and stared closely at the beadwork on the masks.
“These are incredible. Where did you get these,” she asked.
“Pete made them,” Dan responded.
“They’re beautiful, like him!” She smiled at the three of us, stood back and gazed at us, “Well, you’ll get some looks today. And get ready to have to stop to be photographed all day…speaking of, I’ll be right back.”
A minute later, she had us posing on the porch for a few pictures. In the last one we got outright risqué in our pose.
“That’s what I want,” she bellowed and then snapped the picture.
She invited us into her kitchen for some of her breakfast buffet. We were happy to oblige her. Biscuits and eggs again plus grits to eat, but this time Mimosas or Bloody Marys. Dan, Steve and I went for the Bloodys, Jason and Fitz decided on the Mimosas. After stuffing ourselves silly and after downing a couple of drinks we bid the family farewell and headed out into the streets. We all had a good buzz going and it was only nine-thirty.
Led by Steve and Fitz we flowed through the crowd and out onto St. Charles Avenue. Zulu had yet to make its way down Jackson Avenue so we got in the river of people and wound our way down toward Lee Circle keeping on the lookout for a good spot to take in Zulu and then the King of Carnival.
No two parades signified or expressed better the spectrum and dichotomy of Mardi Gras. Zulu began as a rag tag but proud parody of the white celebration of Mardi Gras by the blacks who were excluded from parading. They even parodied themselves by dressing in black face and “native” clothing. The parade had neither a set route nor a permit to parade. They just did. Through the years the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club finally got recognition and was allowed to parade with a set route and even onto St. Charles Avenue! Now they preceded the parade that epitomized the white dominance of Mardi Gras, Rex or King of Carnival who paraded as European styled royalty in curled blond wigs and white leotards. Each of these parades are what this celebration of letting go of all inhibitions was all about before the fall of Lent.
Dan took my hand into his as we walked down the Avenue with Jason, Steve and Fitz following behind. We didn’t care what anyone thought. Here we were in an outlandish get-up being exactly who we were. Except for the traffic, we would do this on any other day of the year and would have felt the same way, even if we weren’t hidden behind a mask. We were stopped at least once a block at someone’s request to be photographed. Dan and I held hands in every one and one of us had our arm around Jason. Steve found a gap in the crowd that looked like a good spot to view the parade. It was still within an easy walking distance of the house if we needed to return for any reason. By ten-thirty Zulu took charge of the crowds with its energy and music and frenzied revelers were driven by the thought of obtaining one of the gold painted coconuts. No trinket from any float in any parade was more prized than a Zulu coconut. Dan Elliot and Jason were the only ones I knew who had the charisma to obtain one for each of us that day. At first it took the three of us, under Dan’s direction, to go out to the float and with as much dignity as we could muster in the throng around us bow to “Mr. Big Stuff,” who directed those on the float to hand us a coconut. Other times either Dan or Jason would just step forward and grin and cajole. Dan, tall and in an outfit that commanded some strange form of respect, was handed even more. And so it went, the five of us had a coconut and a bunch of Zulu medallions. We then stood back on the curb so that others could try their luck at milking a coconut from a Zulu float.
I put my arm around Dan and we watched the rest of the parade and the excitement flow by us. How could I ever be afraid of the future if I had this man by my side?
The shouts and screams of excitement died down as the last Zulu float sailed past on the waving arms of the crowd. The lull was relatively brief before the first blasts of sirens began the ascent of Rex on his rolling throne. For all the noise, excitement and energy of Zulu, there was honor, dignity, and beauty in Rex. Simple throws of cups, beads and doubloons and the time-honored designs of their floats, also on cotton carts, marked the Rex parade. It made me want to salute it. The first marching band that preceded the King was in full swing, playing the theme song of Rex, “If Ever I Cease to Love,” a nonsensical song from a turn of the century musical. I began to sing along with some of the crowd,
“…If ever I cease to love.
May sheeps’ heads grow on apple trees.
If ever I cease to love.
If ever I cease to love, if ever I cease to love.
May the moon be turned to green cheese, if ever I cease to love.”
Dan and Jason smiled as I sang the song at the top of my lungs, my arms around the two of them. We all stood back and watched it go by, catching things as they were thrown our way, admiring it all as it happened. We kept watching until the street sweepers began their whoosh down the street. Slowly we walked back a block or two with Steve and Katie as we reveled in the morning’s events. We bid them adieu, gave them our coconuts, cups and extra beads for safekeeping and struck out for the French Quarter, where we had to see what everyone else was wearing and let them see us. We wanted to see what the rest of the world was up to and see what we could get up to ourselves.
The best way for us to get to the Quarter was to walk, so we did. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, in the mid-fifties but with a warm sun and a slight breeze. The anonymity of wearing a mask on a day when outrageous behavior was tolerated and even encouraged left us no choice but to let our devious side run wild. We never let a chance for the perverse or sexual innuendo pass as we got comments and critiques of our behavior or costumes. The best thing was so many others were doing the same thing in their own deviant way.
We finally made our way down to Canal Street, and then worked ourselves down to the river so we could cross into the Quarter. There we saw costumes of every imaginable type, shape, size, color and description. We were almost sedate by comparison to some. I felt good to know that we weren’t as outrageous as I had first thought when we left the house what seemed like an eon ago.
Down at the gay end of Bourbon Street we played our game of sexual teasing as we had the other night, except this time we were more overt in our actions. I had no qualms about squatting down on my haunches and sucking Dan’s dick in the middle of Bourbon Street in broad daylight, and then turning around and doing the same to Jason. We then would wander around some more, have a beer and start over again, switching positions. At one point Dan was sucking me to the point of cumming when I saw my thesis director out of the corner of my eye. I nearly died of a heart attack until I realized that I had the mask on and I could have been anyone to him.
The golden afternoon light was fading and the last parade, Comus, was getting ready to roll far uptown. It was my tradition always to see this parade. We had had enough debauchery by that point anyway. We waved to the crowd on the balcony, bowed to their cheers and wandered toward the white tower of the Hibernia Bank that had just begun to glow in purple, green and gold lights for the final time that year.
Comus was the oldest of all the krewes, dating back to the 1850’s. It was also the most secretive and select of them all. You didn’t know who was in the parade or who its king was. Even at the ball after the parade, they all wore their masks so that when a lady was asked to dance she didn’t know with whom she was waltzing. The parade was small and to the point. Mardi Gras does not end with an exclamation point. It ends with a period.
We marched up the parade route as the flow of the stream moved uptown. We would walk as far as we had to to meet the parade or when we got to Fitz’s house, whichever came first. We were forced to the side not far from Jackson Avenue. The thirteen floats flew by like they were late. They weren’t. One doubloon and four strings of beads were all that we caught between the three of us. We slowly walked back laughing. Our legs were sore from walking and standing all day. I saw Steve’s head fifty feet ahead of us but I was too tired to run to get him so we caught up with them at Fitz’s.
I took off my mask and Fitz looked at me and said, “You look like the walking dead.”
“I feel like it too. Could you take us home, please?”
“I’d be delighted to. I don’t know what I would be like without a nap this afternoon. Well, maybe I do by looking at you now.”
The three of us climbed into the back seat. I lay against Dan’s chest and was asleep before we got home ten minutes later.
“Come on, Sleeping Beauty,” Dan said as he helped me out of the car, holding me up.
I rallied and then stumbled up the stairs. Dan picked me up and put my arm over his shoulder.
“You must really be tired, ‘cause I know you’re not drunk.”
“I’m drunk with love for you!”
“Oh, man, don’t make me puke.”
We stripped, got in bed, snuggled up and were asleep within minutes. Three hours later I woke up starving. Except for breakfast and some snacking we had had only beer all day long. Dan was restless too and I got him to waken.
“Hey, you hungry?”
“Mmmm, yeah, …..” I thought about a second of how much I enjoyed sex with Dan then continued, “but really?”
“Yeah, I’m starvin’ too. Wake Tiger, I’ll cook.”
“Wake Tiger, what,” Jason asked.
“Oh, man, am I,” he exclaimed, “What’s us gots to eat!”
We stumbled to the kitchen and flicked on the light. We all squinted and covered our eyes until they adjusted to the brightness.
“I hope the neighbors are asleep,” I said staring at the shadeless windows.
“Hey, they should enjoy the view, but I’m protecting myself,” Dan said as he wrapped an apron around his waist.
“Ok, what am I cooking?”
“What? You always just cook,” Jason said.
“You must be tired, darlin’,” I said, turning to open up a cupboard and then the refrigerator.
“Hey, how about soup and grilled cheese sandwiches!”
“Sounds good to me,” Dan said.
“Me too,” replied Jason.
“Tomato or vegetable, wheat or white? Those are your choices.”
“OK, that makes it all the way around.”
I got out three cans of soup, the wheat bread and a block of sharp cheddar cheese. Dan opened the soup, poured it into the saucepan and began to heat it and the large cast iron frying pan. I sliced the cheese and Jason assembled the sandwiches. Soon enough we were slurping and crunching to our ultimate satisfaction. We put the dishes in the sink, hit the bath to brush our teeth and then crawled back into bed.
“I can’t believe it’s back to school tomorrow. I’ve forgotten all about Thesis.”
“Me too, and I’ve already skipped two days this week and will miss tomorrow too,” Jason said longingly, realizing that he had come to enjoy the stability that we provided to his life and would give up school to be with us permanently.
“I get to sleep till one before I have to show up to work,” Dan said, digging at us.
I knew that he would get up with us and make sure we got on our way with a full belly and encouragement. He would also ride to school with me to sit and read by my side for an hour before he had to go to work.
I took Dan’s arm and looked at his watch. It was twelve-fifteen. Mardi Gras was over. It was a downhill rush from here. I wrapped Dan’s arm across my chest, took Strawberry’s, and did the same. I would need their support from here on out.