So I’m sitting in a bar. It’s not a gay bar—it’s definitely not billed that way. It’s not entirely a straight bar, either, because I’ve seen a good third to half of the patrons at the area’s one gay club. It’s what they call typically ‘post-gay’ around here—we’re supposed to be so above it, so hip and welcoming, that gay bars are no longer necessary. Maybe it’s true. There are bars of all stripes in the New York suburbs, but very few of them are gay.
No, this joint is one of many bar/restaurants nestling next to each other on a strip in White Plains, which after dark becomes busy with young metropolitans hopping from one establishment to the next. I like this place, though; the bartender’s cute, the drinks aren’t wildly expensive, and every now and again I get to stagger off my stool and sing some karaoke.
Then a guy sits next to me. Over the loudspeaker some chick is caterwauling something off the top forty. The volume’s hair, and the effect is ear-splitting. I always try to be polite in karaoke bars when the singer’s bad—they’re not being paid for it, after all. But the effect to me is like iron tongs scraping blocks of ice, and I’m afraid I turn my face away from the stage and draw it into a rictus of pain.
“Damn,” says the guy. “It’s a good thing she’s cute, because she sure sings like ass.”
I give him a silent look that’s intended to say Amen to that. I look him over. He’s wearing a chambray shirt, worn but clean. Gray slacks. His hair is silvered, lush, curly. He’s a good looking guy. Smells good, too, like fresh citrus. His clothes occupy a space between white-color professional and blue-collar laborer. I’m not quite figuring him out yet. “I haven’t been to this bar before,” he says, as he grabs the bartender’s attention and orders a beer. “You?”
“A few times,” I say. I look down. The guy’s got an impressive bulge down the left leg of his jeans.
“I was next door, heard all the commotion. Thought I’d come see what was going on.” I can’t tell if he’s looking me over or not. He’s definitely looking at me. But he is looking at me? I don’t know. “You seem like the kind of guy who gets a lot of action. Am I right?”
He’s right, but I’m not committing to coming off as cocky. I just grin, shrug, and take a swig from my glass. “Karaoke action, maybe,” I say, by way of modesty.
“Right. I bet that’s not the only action. You singing?”
“Already did. It’ll be a while before I sing again.”
“Maybe we can talk some, then. I’m Louis.”
My dick stirs in my pants as I shake Louis’ hand. I still haven’t figured the guy out. These so-called ‘post-gay’ bars in this sophisticated part of the U.S. are a mixed bag of blessings. The up, of course, is that everybody mingles together and nobody gives a damn who’s gay or who’s straight. The down, of course, is that everybody mingles together and nobody can really tell who’s gay or who’s straight without some name tags. Either way, I like talking to new people, so I give him my name and tell him I’m glad to meet him.
He tells me he’s an engineer who studies drain lines. That makes sense to me—the clothes are a mixture of the down-and-dirty and the supervisor-in-the-yellow-construction-hat. “Seems like a great crowd in here,” he tells me. “Kind of a mix of hot chicks and gay guys, right?” I’m still wondering on which side his pachinko ball lands on when he adds, “I was down in the city a couple of weeks ago and I went to this bar in the Village, Marie’s Crisis?” I tell him I’d heard of it. “Place was fucking packed with the gays. They sing a hell of a lot better than this chick, though! I was pretty sure I was the only straight guy there.”
There’s the name tag I was looking for. Hello, my name is Heterosexual.
He leans in even closer, though, giving me a little bit of an erotic thrill. “With all those gay guys I’m sure could’ve got my dick sucked easy if I wanted at that place, know what I’m saying, though?” he murmurs. And even though I’m not the kind of guy who fetishizes sex with straight men, I’m still a little giddy and aroused at the confidence. I’m pretty sure he’s got me pegged, too; we both know what we are, and we’re both comfortable with ourselves and each other. It’s a post-gay bar thing, right?
We listen to the karaoke singers for a while, exchanging small talk. He tells me about his place up the Hudson; I talk a little about moving from the distressed midwest to the swanky neighborhood where I now reside. Then he leans over and puts a hand on my shoulder, and moves in. I lean forward until my ear is near his lips. “So buddy,” he whispers, soft and intimate. “There’s a pretty lady at twelve o’clock. Your twelve o’clock,” he corrects, when I try to look behind me. “Check her out. Is she my type?”
We’re within kissing distance, almost; the intimacy hits me like a sack of wet bricks. I find I’m totally erect as I look at the woman three seats down from him. She’s dressed up for an evening out. Her dress is cut low on top and cut high at the legs; she’s got a mane of glossy black hair hanging down her shoulders, a clutch in her left hand, left knee atop the right. “I don’t know what your type is,” I murmur into his ear, as the smell of lime tickles my nostrils.
“Is she a blockaway?" he asks, soft and low.
“What’s a blockaway?”
“You know. A dude or a chick who only looks good from a block away or more.”
He gives me a broad grin and a wink while I roared out loud. “She’s not a blockaway,” I assure him.
“Then she’s my type. Do a brother a solid and help me out here.” He jerks his head toward the woman. “Soften her up a little.”
It’s been a long, long time since I was a straight man’s wingman. My dick is still hard when I slide out of my chair with my glass in my hand and mosey over to the woman’s far side. Most of the crowd is up by the karaoke stage; it’s fairly quiet in the stretch of bar seats beyond where the woman has parked herself. I wave my glass at the bartender, set it down on the wood surface, and slide it back. Then I rest my arms on the seat beside the waiting woman. “So are you singing tonight?” I ask her.
She gives me that automatic look of reproach that woman tend to use when they’re alone in public places and don’t care for strange men hitting on them. It’s icy, and distant. Then she turns to dig for something imaginary in her purse.
“You should sing,” I tell her. “The hostess has a huge book of songs. She used to do karaoke at the gay bar way down the road until she moved here. That’s where I used to hang out. But at least this place serves food.” I watch as she processes the information. She looks around at the post-gay bar crowd and draws the correct conclusion, but I’ve already moved on. “Of course, some people find it’s more fun the drunker they are.”
“I’m really not much of a singer,” she says, taking her drink from the bartender and sipping it prettily through the straw. “But I did do ‘Love Shack’ once.”
Christ, everyone and their sloshed aunt has done ‘Love Shack.’ “You should totally do it,” I say, giving her a big smile. “Everyone would love you up there. You’re gorgeous.”
She flushes, and flutters her eyelashes. Flattery from gay guys is always the best. What reason do we have to lie? “Oh, come on.”
“Seriously, you are!” By now, my friend has moved up behind the woman. He’s standing upright, drink in hand, behind her shoulder. “Oh hey, do you know my friend Louis?” I ask, shamelessly stealing a line from How I Met Your Mother. Then I mumble something about seeing the karaoke hostess about when I’m going to sing, and leave the two of them alone.
I’m down the bar, watching Louis talk to the woman. I’m struck by how close his approach looks to an outsider like the way he walked to me: posture open, leaning in, close, intimate. She’s laughing and smiling at her, and she’s smiling at him . . . though perhaps not as broadly as she’d smiled at me. Eventually I turn away and listen to the music again.
He’s back five minutes later. “Nice work, my brother,” he says, slipping me a private secret handshake that I nearly fumble at the last minute. “You are a good, good wingman.”
“But you’re back here,” I point out.
“She’s waiting for someone. There’ll be another.” He sits down to wait with me, and we pass the time talking, inches from each other.
He’s correct. Another woman makes her way into the bar and takes a seat at the tables in the back. I bring her to his attention. “Definitely not a blockaway," he says with approval.
“You know I’d do this for you,” he said. “Though I kinda suspect you don’t need me to.”
“What are wingmen for?” I ask, as I crack my knuckles and get to work.
I use the same approach. Ask her if she’s singing. Let it slip that I’m likely not after her body. Introduce my friend. And leave them alone. This time, though, it seems to stick. He’s at the table for five minutes, flashing his pearly whites, staring her down. Ten minutes. Then he’s beside her on the bench. When I take the stage to sing at the fifteen minute point, he’s to his arms around her, and they’re absorbed in their own little universe. Job done.
Three songs and I’m out. I give my buddy a wave on the way toward the door. I’m surprised when he makes an apology to the woman and skitters over to stand next to me. His arm’s around my shoulder and he gives me a hug and a toast with his glass. “I pretty sure I’m in this one. It’s all thanks to you.”
Again, the intimacy of the embrace, of that shared common goal of getting laid, makes me hard as a rock. No matter what holes our dicks go into, he and I both share that need of getting in and getting the job done. My heart’s thudding as I show some demur to his praise.
“I owe you one,” he says, looking me dead in the eye with his baby blues as I go. He points at me. “And I always pay my debts.”
I’m doubting he pay this one in quite the way I have in mind. Still. It’s nice to be owed.