It’s a typical Tuesday night, and I’m at a gay bar in Chelsea playing Pictionary. The drag queen hostess loves my dress, and a million men that I’ll never sleep with pontificate on my femininity. “Such an all-American girl,” sighs one. “Not a lick of makeup and she’s still so beautiful.” He really does say that, not a lick, and also I am wearing many licks of makeup so I’m not sure how to take the compliment. I get considerably more attention at gay bars than straight ones, some days. I also am great at Pictionary, and after I out-draw my opponent, 7 to 2, I’m rewarded with a drink ticket that I can use for a vodka soda.
This is the problem with New York gay bars: their drink ratios are based on the typical alcohol tolerance level of the New York gay. As such, my vodka soda is poured like: vvvvvvooooooooodddddkkkkkaaaaaaaaa (soda), and as I’ve already had two of these suckers, I realize it’s time to go home. I bid adieu to all my friends, Romans, countrymen, bask in a couple last-minute compliments, and I roll on out.
It’s a long walk to my subway station, but the weather is balmy and I don’t have to work in the morning, so I’m reveling in the relative quiet of the dark streets. I’m almost to my destination when a green minivan pulls up alongside me. A man leans his head out. “Excuse me,” he says with a sheepish shrug. “I’m a little bit lost. Can you help me?”
A couple things about the man. For one, he looks sort of like Scott Bakula. Maybe not double-take worthy, but if a movie was ever made about this interaction, I’d know who to cast (the role of me would be played by the Olsen twins). For another, he is incredibly hairy. I know this because of the funny way that he talks, with his upper half hanging out the window, his fuzzy arms crossing and swinging in melodramatic gesticulation. He seems apologetic, if not exactly uncomfortable. “Do you know where I could find, like, maybe, the kinky clubs?”
I don’t know why I assume he’s gay. It’s technically a leap in logic on my part (a quantum leap? Ho ho!), but my head is cloudy and everyone I know is gay. “Oh, sure,” I say. “You just need to go three avenues this way, and there are lots of gay bars there. They’ll be able to point you toward the clubs.”
“Well, no,” he says. He squints his Scott Bakula eyes and shrugs again, putting his hands to his face and then dropping them. “I’m looking for like, the kinky clubs. Like the exhibitionist clubs? Do you know where they are?”
“I mean, I don’t know,” I say. “But if you go three avenues this way toward the gay bars, they should be able to tell you.” This is kind of a burden on the patrons of said gay bars, I suppose. But still my capacity for rational problem solving is being sidetracked by my assumptions about his sexual orientation.
“I really like your dress,” he says.
“So do you know where, like, the exhibitionist clubs might be?” The arms wave about, the fingers flutter.
“I mean, no.”
“Do you know what exhibitionism is?” he asks.
It’s around this time that I begin to understand that he’s not asking for directions to a gay bar. This is also when I realize that he’s not wearing any pants. Both hands are still mercifully in full view, but at the bottom of the windowpane I’m getting peeks at his very upper thigh, coated in the same Fuzzy Wuzzy hair-suit as his arms.
In the problem-solving part of my brain, a frantic meeting takes place in the control room. A message is written out and handed to a sentry, who clenches it between her teeth and breaststrokes through a sea of vodka. Breathlessly she reaches the headquarters of my reflexes, and pulls out the message to read it aloud. The text says: WARNING WARNING WARNING SCOTT BAKULA IS NOT WEARING PANTS.
“Do you, like, like exhibitionism?” he asks.
In the reflexes headquarters, somebody pulls the alarm. Red lights are flashing in my head, sirens wailing.
“No!” I say. Headquarters sends a command to my feet, and before he can ask another question, I’m halfway down the block. Speeding toward the subway, now, I replay the interaction in my head. When I reassess the scenario, I realize he is probably the politest exhibitionist ever. Granted, his tactics are unlikely to bring him much luck on his quest, as he’s essentially performing the kink equivalent of snowing his resume, but I do appreciate the good manners he displayed in asking my permission before exhibiting, even if I don’t want to get into his minivan.
A few minutes later, a black car pulls up beside me and someone inside beckons. “Psst! Psst!” comes the hiss from the driver’s seat, but I am having none of it. I glare at the tinted windows and shake my head without breaking stride. It’s late and I’m tired, and I don’t feel like giving any more directions.