I’d rented a car for the first time and escaped to Rehoboth. I was stationed at Norfolk. I counted the miles between me and the naval base outloud as I drove north. Thinking what it would be like to be somewhere I could step out and see what other gay men were like. The restaurant was in the Damron guide I’d been hiding in my stuff.
“I didn’t think there was another gay man that liked football,” he said appearing next to me, letting his hand leisurely drop on my back. We stared up at the small color TV silently for a moment.
I was terrified someone would know it was my first time in a gay restaurant, so I answered him without turning to make eye contact, “yeah, looks like Notre Dame ‘ll be a good squad this year.” I could smell him. “I’m Ronald,” he said in affectionate tone, revealing a southern accent.
“I’m Robert…..” I said, turning to him.
He was in his late thirties, with the unmistakable Navy issue mustache. He was strong. He had a soft Cajun complexion, someone who had been tan since the cradle. He wore a white tanktop, soaked with humid sweat. Funny that I don’t remember him being particularly hairy, but will always remember his smell. He’d been on the beach and smelled of beer and smoke and abandon. He wore a bead necklace and had that day old patchouli oil look about him.
I must have spent a longer than usual moment taking in all his qualities. He smiled wide and rustled my hair like I was a five year old. He turned me towards him, swiveling me on the barstool.
“Well now, aren’t you a beautiful boy?” he said to me, as I fell in love with him.