Walking into a gay bar is like going underwater. There’s no air, because of the smoke, the cologne, the press of people; the pheromones, the alcohol, the drugs, the hidden vials of poppers. The loud music rivals the crash of surf on the beach; diva’s voices break through the relentless beats, like the clanging of distant buoys. The chattering voices are as annoying and ubiquitous as the screeching of gulls. The bar itself is a coral reef of stools and countertop. The servers are unusually fine specimens, sailor boys, with crew cuts, bronzed by the sun(lamps). Toxins are held in transparent solid jellyfish (glasses), and the patrons begin their displays of mating and challenge. Most are dressed to kill, in plumage, feathers and fins—or Abercrombie and Fitch and J Crew. They prowl the tiny aquarium with precision of sharks, and hunger of piranhas. The pretty ones always find each other through some system that I’m not privy to—some mysterious navigation, sexual echo-location—who knows? These guys always glow with some private fire, the sheen after a workout, the lift of X or poppers, glitter smearing their faces and bodies in bioluminescence. In this ecosystem, I am an anemone.

Tiny. Full of bristles. Stuck to a rock, in a small pool, away from the action.

Oh, occasionally, something will come by to devour me. A fat squid in clothes too tight, his beak quivering in anticipation, his sex oozing out like ink, making the waters murky. Or a blobby man o’ war will drift up to the tidal pool, lazy tentacles questing, with desperation the stinging poison. But most ignore me.

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