It was was Saturday night, and I was going to meet up with a few friends later that night. We didn't plan on meeting till around 11, but by 9:00 I was getting restless so I decided to head out early and start on my own. My first stop was at The Bike Stop, which is a VERY dimly lit leather/cruising bar hidden away in a back alley. It's one of those places where all kinds of stuff goes on in the dark corners. I have a drink and chit chat with the bartender, who I sort of know from the gym. He's a gorgeous little muscle boy and all he wears when he bartends is a jockstrap. His tip jar is always full at the end of the night, haha. Myself and the bartender are probably the youngest people in there by about 10 years, but I honestly like that. Older guys are often easier and more interesting to talk to. I talk a little bit with this guy I know from the gym, but then his boyfriend shows up and clearly gets jealous he's talking to me and pulls him away. Okay, time to move on.
Its still early, not even 10 o'clock yet, so I have plenty of time to kill. I walk back out onto the street and think. It's early and I'm still sober, so maybe we can all drive up to New York and spend the night there. It's less then two hours drive, and could be up there before midnight. That's pregame hour there. We could have the whole night to enjoy it all. I throw that idea to a friend via text, but he's gotta meet with a client the next day, so he can't show up a hot mess. Okay, guess we're all staying here. No biggie, it'll still be fun.
All of a sudden I hear someone calling my name. I look up, and there is this guy coming at me from across the street. He's kind of a stereotypical city gay; impeccably dressed, muscled, good face, white collar with a lot of money. The perfect outside image hides the ridiculous mess he is on the inside. I wouldn't really call him a friend. He (and the crowd he runs with) are really nothing more then party buddies to me. We drink and party and stuff together, but I don't know if I could take them while sober. I wonder if they feel the same about me?
He invites me back to his place, says he's got some people over and a lot of stuff waiting. The two drinks I had in the bar are starting to hit me a bit and I still have almost an hour till my friends come. Sure why not, I tell him. His place is just a few blocks away, and the whole walk there he just blathers on and on about nothing, talking so fast and so much I can barely get more then a 'yeah' or 'umhmm' in. I must admit his place is stunning. A 16th floor loft with expensive furniture, funky artworks from god knows where, and floor to ceiling windows that look out to the Ben Franklin Bridge and the river into South Jersey. As promised, there's about 7-8 other guys there, most of whom I know (although strictly on a surface level), and stuff on the table. The whole scene makes it excruciatingly obvious that this is trying to compensate for some deficienty, and I wonder if I'm the only one to notice. But hell, maybe I'm just as guilty because here I am, partaking in it.
We all get lit in the living room as the "Circuit Party 2017" Spotify playlist thumps in the background. The Grindr scrolling is constant, and the conversation is very much centered on sex and the upcoming shore season. Rehoboth or Fire Island? New York or Miami? This annoyed me at first, but the more intoxicated I got, the more I seemed to enjoy it all and partake as well.
It's close to 11, so I excuse myself with promises I'll meet up with them later in the night, maybe after hours at Voyuer. I feel pretty good, and make my way back out of the building and onto the street. The warm weather and Gayborhood's promise of sin has brought out the crowds, and the street is noticably more crowded then when I last left it. Everyone seems to be flowing right into the heart of it all at 13th and Locust. The energy is palpable, and it stimulates my already invigorated brain. What a hell of a time and a place to be alive!
I reach the bar where I'm meeting my friends, and the bouncer doesn't even bother checking my ID. I guess he recognizes me now, wow. At this point though, it doesn't even register. The bar is busy, but not yet packed. Still too early for that. I look around and my friends aren't there yet, so I text one of them. He says he's running a bit late, but I'm not surprised. I've learned through the course of our friendship that Chileans are never on time. Why I keep bothering to show up on time with him is a mystery to me. I look around, but I don't recognize anybody. The bar is starting to transition as the mostly older, calmer, early crowd give way to the younger, livlier, late nighters who constitute the public face of this 'hood. I sit down and order a gin and tonic, which has become my drink of choice this summer. I probably shouldn't be drinking anything more after the impromptu loft party, but what is Saturday night for if not bad choices? I stand there for several minutes, sipping on my drink and taking in the crowd. Talk about an interesting cross section of people.
Someone taps me on the shoulder, and it's one of the DJs who I know (he used to sleep with my roommate sometimes). We shoot the shit for a minute, and he throws me a couple comp passes to the after hours club across the street. They make it so easy to keep going that it's hard to say no. I go back to being alone, and I'm rather enjoying the good feeling that is overtaking my entire body. I realize this is a happy place for me, both mentally and physically. It's something I thought I'd never be a part of, or could have been a part of. I've worked hard to find a solid place in this life, and now here I am living what I only thought existed on some alien world. My life has become a duality of weekday me and weekend me, and I love the contrast. One does not touch or bleed into the other. I bet that is true for a lot of the guys, young and old, in this place right now.
The guy next to me, who has been glancing to the side at me non stop since I ordered my drink, finally gives up and vacates the space to my right. Immediately an older gentlemen fills it and orders a drink. I see him out of the corner of my eye glance at me, look away, and then glance again. He gets his drink and then asks me 'how's your night going buddy?' I get slightly annoyed at being interrupted in enjoying the scene around me, and I hate when people who don't know me call me 'buddy'. Especially older people. It just seems patronizing. 'Just waitin' to meet a friend'. My voice betrays my annoyance, even though I didn't mean to let it. He instantly recognizes this, and looks away to try and make a retreat. I kind of feel bad, and why not have a conversation with a stranger while I wait?
We make small talk, and he asks me about my job, where I live, yada yada. He downs his drink in about two minutes and quickly orders another one. He starts telling me about his life, how he got married, suburbs, kids, the whole typical 'closeted married guy' thing. He explains how he had just come out two years ago and still lived in the suburbs and this was only his second time to a gay bar. Ugh, his story is painful and everything I actively work to avoid in my life. I think he picks up on this fact as I lay out for him the life I live where my freedom of self is my utmost value.
'So what's it mean to be young and free?' The question catches me totally off guard and I'm a bit taken aback by it. I ponder, and I honestly could have answered a million things, but the thing that came out of my cocked up brain was 'the consequences of society don't apply to me like they did to you. Nobody set upon me the burden of expectation so I can make of it what I want.' Now it's his turn to be taken aback, and all he can say is 'wow', and looks away from me and down at the bar. I can't quite tell what he feels, and to be honest I'm not really sure why I should care. I gave him a raw (albeit inebriated) answer to his question, so whatever. My phone buzzes and it's my friend asking me where I am. I look up across the bar and there he is on the other side by the door, late as always but waiting impatiently for me.
'I gotta go, my friend is here. It was fun talking to ya' I say to him. 'You too' he smiles and asks if we could meet up later. 'Sure, maybe after hours at Voyuer' I say. He has no clue what Voyuer is, and I don't really feel like explaining it to him. I shake his hand, awkwardly, and push my way through the ever growing crowd toward my friend.