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Archive-name: SpecMome/gay.txt

Archive-author: Michael K. Smith

Archive-title: Gay

(a true story; no *obvious* sex here, folks...)

[This minor but memorable incident really happened, May '93, in Baltimore. 

Well,... the nouns and the verbs are true; the adjectives and the adverbs

may or may not be.  And the motivations are largely speculative.  The

names have not been changed because these are my friends and none of them

needs protecting.]

NOTE: I don't usually write in present tense, but when I replay this in my

memory, it's *always* in present tense....

                              Until Next Year

   As we start down the long, narrow flight of stairs, gorged on Sisson's

excellent food and micro-brewed stout, I step up next to Gay and offer her

my arm to steady herself.  The week's nearly over and she's obviously

running out of steam -- but the fact that she's here at all, only five

months after a major stroke followed by brain surgery, says something

about the lady's raw will power.

   Everyone Gay knows has sent her letters and cards, probably a thousand

or more, all told.  But during her six weeks in Intensive Care and the

following two months in therapy sessions, I've written her little notes

and long discursive letters at least twice a week, interspersed with 'Get

Well' cards both outrageously silly and dewily sentimental.  One of the

effects of the stroke was serious double vision, and her sister has told

me that, after her sight cleared sufficiently, she sat in the big chair in

her hospital room and read all my missives at once, chronologically.

   Now she accepts the proffered assistance with a quick smile in my

direction that seems to imply it's the most natural thing in the world. 

And her touch sends little *pings* radiating up and down my arm.

   Then she says, half under her breath, "You've been watching me."  So

much for what I had thought was masterful subtlety.  Of *course* I've been

watching her, every moment since she made her unexpected entrance at the

conference earlier in the week.  Whenever she seemed safely occupied with

something or somebody else, I have studied her face, her profile, her

tight helmet of very black hair, her long, tapering fingers -- everything

about her.  Eyes like obsidian set in pure white, topped by thin,

parabolic eyebrows.  Wide mouth with mobile, almost cupid's-bow lips. 

Not-quite-even teeth which she flashes regularly and brilliantly.  When

something delights her, she doesn't emit a ladylike "tee-hee"; she

guffaws, mouth wide open, in a way that gets everyone else laughing with


   She didn't really ask a question but I somehow feel a response is

required.  So I look at her kind of sidelong and lift an eyebrow.

   "I'm afraid I have, Gay.  Uh, should I apologize?"  The "uh" is

studied and she knows it.

   She gives my bicep a tiny squeeze which I can nevertheless feel in my


   "No; I think it's sweet."  And I get another flash of that radiant

smile.  I hope the people up behind us on the stairs aren't close enough

to hear but I don't want to break the moment by looking over my shoulder.  

 And then we've reached the front door of the establishment and Jack, a

couple of steps ahead of us, is holding it open politely, and we're out on

the sidewalk.  Gay takes a self-conscious position in the middle of the

walk so she can exchange goodbyes with everyone in the group.  Dick has

gone off to get his car, to drive Gay back to her hotel.  The rest of us

will take a leisurely hour to stroll back along the harborfront from

Federal Hill, since no one's in a hurry this last night of the conference

and all that food needs a chance to settle.

   But everybody's leaving in the morning and most of us won't see each

other in person until next year -- though we'll all be back online in a

couple of days -- so everyone is taking the opportunity to hug Gay and

tell her how really glad they are that she could make it to Baltimore and

that they'll be talking to her on the Net.

   And every one of them means every word of what they're saying.  Gay is

only 34 -- a sobering reminder of mortality for the majority of us who

have a few years on her.  But she's universally liked by everyone who has

had a keyboard conversation with her ... and loved by all who have spent

any time with her in person.  There was unspoken dread after the stroke

that we might not ever see this lovely lady again.  Or that, at best, she

might survive as a paraplegic.  Her astonishing rate and degree of

recovery is almost as shocking as the stroke itself.

   Then I see Dick slowly maneuvering his Volvo between the parked cars

lining both sides of the narrow street.  A few more minutes and Gay will

be gone for the year.  For obvious reasons, we haven't even been able to

go off for a companionable walk-and-talk by ourselves this year, as we've

managed to do at the past three conferences.  I'm standing back out of the

way, now, letting them all have their turns with the hugs and

well-wishing.  Besides, I have a lump in my throat that I don't believe I

can talk around.  I'm thinking I'll just open the car door for her and

then give her a smile and a parting squeeze of the shoulder.

   Dick stops and gets out, grinning over the car's roof at the sidewalk

love-fest, which is now beginning to break up.  (Dick is about my age and,

like me, he loves his wife and kids ... but he, too, carries a torch for

Gay and we all know it.)

   People are stepping back to allow Gay access to her transportation --

and my way is blocked and Jacques steps off the curb and opens the car

door.  Shit.  There goes my chance at a final goodbye.

   Gay steps off the curb and hugs Jacques, who gives her a peck on the

cheek.  Damn.  Could have been me, I think.  But then she glances around

the little crowd on the sidewalk, sees me behind someone's shoulder, and

holds out her hand.

   I slip past the shoulder and take the hand and she draws me to her,

apart from all her other friends.  I find myself looking deep into those

dark, liquid eyes and suddenly I'm running on automatic.

   "C'mere," she says, too softly for anyone else to hear.  Her arms slip

up and around my neck and I find my hands sliding around her waist.  My

mind isn't working right, I think absently, because this can't possibly be


   Oh yes, it can.  Gay's firm hands exert a light, steady pressure on

the back of my neck, pulling my face down toward hers.  There's no doubt

at all about what she intends.

   The rest of the group, all my friends and colleagues, have ceased to

exist.  So has Dick, and so has the car.  So has Baltimore.  The old line

about falling into a woman's eyes is no longer just a line.

   A fraction of a second before our lips touch, Gay angles her head

slightly and closes her eyes.  The contact is soft but firm and I wonder

if I'm going to faint.  This isn't just a quick, sisterly kiss, oh, no. 

She moves her mouth against mine and hums almost inaudibly in her throat. 

The sensation is something I haven't felt since I was 20 and seriously in

love for the first time.  I'm aware that some part of my mind is recording

every nuance of every instant of this prolonged farewell, so I will be

able to replay it again and again.

   Gay's body is pressed against me and I'm reminded again just how

shapely she really is for an otherwise small and slender woman (though my

feelings toward her have always been more on the order of "courtly love"

than overtly sexual).  Her arms tighten for a few seconds as she flicks

her tongue twice against my front teeth, like braille.  Which is just as

well because my vision has becomes somewhat blurred.  Our lips separate

and she sighs lightly and stares back into my eyes.  Then her mouth is at

my ear and mine at hers.

   "Mike, I've wanted to do that for two years, but it never seemed like

the right moment.  After all I've gone through this spring, I'm not going

to worry ever again about a 'right moment'."

   "I've thought about it, too," I reply in a matching whisper.  "But I

would never have dared; thank God you did."  I kiss her ear lobe lightly,

quickly, and then ease out of the embrace before I can do something

*really* stupid -- like proclaiming my undying devotion.

   Gay smiles broadly and waves to everyone as she begins to step away. 

She's holding my hand again, just the fingers, and I wish wildly that I

were going off with her, but no: I'll be back in Dallas tomorrow

afternoon, as scheduled.  She must be reading my mind because she pauses

and reaches up to kiss me again, a light fairy touch, before she scrambles

into the car and I close the door firmly.

   And then Dick gets in, too, and they drive off.  I've been watching

Gay's face the entire time so I haven't seen his expression until just

now.  His bewilderment is almost comical.  He's known Gay much longer than

I have and there's no way he could have expected the display he's just


   Then I look back at my friends for the first time in several minutes. 

Jack and Jacques are both staring, mouths open.  Diane looks about to

burst with curiosity.  Emily's mind is working a mile a minute; it shows

on her face.  William and Martha have only met Gay in the flesh a few days

before and don't quite seem to realize there's anything unusual in what

has just occurred.  The rest of the gang simply appears dumbfounded.   

And all the way back to the Sheraton, the comradely chit-chat touches

every subject except my apparent but unknown relationship with Gay.  Those

who have known me for some years are -- probably -- pretty sure there's no

secret affair going on; it isn't the kind of thing I would do (...or so

they have believed) and it *certainly* isn't the kind of thing Gay would

do.  Or, if she did, she would be thoroughly discreet about it.  I can

tell by the speculative glances I receive that they're replaying that

goodbye kiss and wondering what the explanation could possibly be.

   I smile as I replay it myself.  My middle-aged-crazy fantasies have

certainly been fulfilled -- and maybe that's the little gift Gay was

giving me, by kissing me so publicly.  I look back at my friends, looking

at me, and I smile again.

   Let 'em wonder.


Copyright 1993 by Michael K. Smith. Copies may be made and posted elsewhere

for personal enjoyment, but all commercial rights are reserved.



Michael Kalen Smith / Dallas, TX

Internet: / CompuServe: 73177,366

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