Carmine

April 1996

I’m walking towards The Stinking Rose, a North Beach restaurant featuring garlic-infused dishes, to meet up with a man I’ve never met in person. His name is Carmine, and we were introduced the same way I met Danny — through a gay dating phone service. I remembered our first phone conversation. He said his name was Chris and that he was 37 years old. He was vivacious and engaging. We exchanged numbers, and in a subsequent chat, he revealed his true name and his true age of 44 He asked me, in a contrite, plaintive tone, “does that matter?” I said “no,” thinking to myself: why the deception?

Finally, we setup a date, and for some curious reason, I chose to wear a purple paisley shirt with green corduroys and black boots. I must have looked like a leprechaun! As I approached the entrance of the restaurant, heart beating fast from the anticipation and uphill climb, I saw him. About an inch taller than I, medium build, balding, with a handsome face and sparkling eyes. He was the only one wearing a red sweater, so I approached him.

“Carmine?”

“Yes! You’re Todd?”

“Yep!”

Smiles

We embraced, entered the restaurant, and were shown to our table. For the next 90 minutes, we ate, drank, and talked. We talked about our backgrounds. We talked about our jobs. We just talked. I learned that he was from Brooklyn, spent some time in Philadelphia and San Antonio, and worked at an investment firm downtown. I told him that I just came out two months ago, and had very limited experience. I noticed the way he looked into my eyes as I spoke. Those eyes sparkled even brighter. He’s a charmer, and he knows how to talk, I thought to myself. You’re going home with him. I just knew it.

After dinner, he invited me over to his place. Bingo! We walked westward, along Broadway, and then though the tunnel (what a novelty that was), and then took a left at Polk Street. We walked another twelve blocks until we came to his complex on O’Farrell Street. Once inside his apartment, he brought out a bottle of wine and two glasses. We sat on the heavily carpeted floor and looked at each other for a moment. That night we drank, we talked, and we laughed. Oh my God, we laughed. It was the kind of laughter brought on by the recognition of a kindred soul. I’m staying overnight, I said to myself. Again, I just knew it. Finally, in a moment of pure ecstasy, our lips met and we kissed for a very long time.

I stayed the night.

TO BE CONTINUED

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