Friday Night Recalled

Is there a more perfectly-designed place to watch snippets of human interaction than at a hotel bar? Sipping on a Manhattan as I wait for Chris to arrive, I am surrounded by similar creatures – a Grey Goose gimlet to my right, in the regal form of a tall lady in a fabulously-ruffled sleeveless white top and elegantly-flowing black silk pants – to my left a gentleman with a Grey Goose martini, very dry.

Another gentleman has joined the lady with the gimlet. She offers a slow, radiant smile, and a deep tender kiss on the lips. How long have they been parted, I wonder, to elicit such a reaction? He sits beside her and they kiss again, his hands caressing her bare arms. It’s sweet, and perhaps illicit. Maybe they’re both married and engaging in an affair. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and instead picture them on their second go-round with love. It’s the start of Valentine’s Day weekend after all.

He orders a screwdriver, with “a lot of ice, and not too much orange juice.” My romantic ideals for them slightly falter. Coupled with his mustache, his drink choice gives me pause. But then they kiss again, and I’m alone in a corner kissing the lips of a Manhattan. Their hands intertwine, and their talk is exuberant and breathless, if a little empty. It’s all small stuff, but for them it seems the most exciting small stuff, and I remember with sweetness the early days of every relationship, when the most mundane facts take on the most meaningful significance.

The man is saying to the woman, “I’m yours.” And I’m gagging. Now the guy on the left – dry Grey Goose martini – has been summoned by his partner (”Come sit over here,” she orders, and he complies with a lazy shrug.) As I look around, it’s become apparent that I’m the only person not paired off in a couple – in the entire bar. Arms reach around shoulders, men and women lean into animated conversations, and groups of people laugh and carry on in a way that straddles precariously between touching and obnoxious.

There’s always been something that separates me from people. For a long time I thought it was the gay thing, and that surely plays its part, but it goes deeper than that, is more specific and personal than the mere biological fact of my homosexuality. I am an observer above all else, and I am keenly aware of being observed. It lends a distance to everything, especially on nights like this.

Now the woman on the right has laughed out loud and apologized to her friend – she’s reading a text. The man looks bemused but can’t disguise a definite tinge of not-quite-hidden annoyance. She doesn’t notice. They must not know each other that well, so they can be this annoyingly cute. They kiss again. It is the beginning of Valentine’s weekend, and though I am away from Andy, I am not lonely, for I know he is there, holding down the fort until I return. That is enough to construct a home within my heart, a home that is with me even when I’m the only person alone in a hotel bar.

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