And You Thought Florida Was Just Amusement Parks and Strip Malls

There was something distinctive about the way he inhaled his cigarette in the thick, humid night air.

It wasn’t like he was James Dean or anything, but the ember on the tip of his cigarette glowed with the same kind of confidence that was reflected in his eyes as we stood outside this hole-in-wall gay bar. I wasn’t immediately attracted to him, though. He was from Orlando and was so Central-Florida it hurt. Highlighted hair tips. Orange skin. Assorted tribal and Chinese-symbol tattoos, 14 of them I would learn. And an obvious plastic surgery enthusiast. But like I said, there was something irresistible in the way his eyes narrowed at me through the smoke produced by our Marlboro Lights.

“What’s your deal, dude?” he inquired between drags. I, too, puffed at my cigarette, nervously.

“Huh?” He caught me off guard.

“Don’t get me wrong, you’re, like, totally beautiful to look at and all, but you look like your dog just died.”

“I mean, I don’t know,” I replied, inhaling and exhaling once more.

Truth is, he was right. I wasn’t in the best of moods, and I guess it showed. Broke again, and the guy that had been stringing me along for the last six months was seated at the bar 10 feet away, ignoring me, in the same kind of cat-and-mouse fashion I’d come accustomed.

He approached me like how I imagine a fox slinks towards a rabbit, slowly at first, and then gaining a certain assured speed. Now standing nearly face-to-face I felt my back arch timidly, trying to shy away from him. “What do you want?” he asked. My eyes kept darting between him and through the window to the bar, where I could see my other dude, now chatting up some sophomore college student. “What. Him?” Florida asked, pointing his head towards Mr. Mouse inside.

He was more intuitive than his highlights made him appear.

“Yeah. I guess. I mean. It’s whatever,” I answered.

He smirked. Then nodded. “Well, I was going to see if you wanted to come back to my hotel room with me. I’m over the guys in this town, and you seem different. Nice.”

“Oh, um. Okay.” I considered his proposition. I was lonely. I wanted the Mouse to see that I was desirable. I wanted to see that I was desirable. But, then- “Actually, I don’t really do that. You know. Like, one night stands.”

“Who said it just has to be one night?”

“I’ve played this game before,” I started, “You’re only in town for the weekend. Then you leave. And I still get to be alone. It’s just not worth it to me, is all.”

“You got me all wrong. Look. I think you’re gorgeous. I’d like to spend some time with you, whether that’s watching TV or…whatever you want. There’s something about you. And I can tell that you’re not like the other idiots in this bar. But, if you want to hang outside this bar, and wait for some guy who’s clearly not worth your time to decide whether or not he wants to pay you attention, then that’s your call. You’re alone because you choose to be alone.”

Who knew that such wisdom could come from crappy gay bars at one in the morning?

His words were razors of reality. I winced as he hurled them toward me, but I knew he was right. The Mouse was never going to come back around, much less even step outside to acknowledge me. There are some guys that will always make you feel not young enough, not hot enough, or not something enough, and he is one of them. And Florida, while certainly not Nostradamus, was like some kind of gay oracle who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and who somehow knew to say exactly what I needed to hear.

By the time he finished his diatribe I, in turn, had finished my cigarette. I flicked it into a neighboring ashtray as I thanked him for what he said. And truly, I thanked him. We said our nice-meeting-you’s, and I walked back inside to close out my tab before I headed home. As I signed my credit card receipt, I glanced over once more at the Mouse, who still hadn’t even taken the time to so much as a look in my direction all evening. I wasn’t sure that our saga was entirely over, but for that night, at least, it was; what Florida said was true, but it was an idea that’s easier to put onto to paper than into practice.

I knew one thing for certain, though: it turns out that gay bars are useful for far more than just cigarettes and watered down vodka tonics.

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