Sunday arrives and after a weekend with my kids I head south to New York City. The parade covers miles but I head down to the Village, where forty years ago at the Stonewall one might say the parade began and is now where it ends. The streets are crowded and as a middle aged white male I blend into the background and watch the show. Parades, even “my” parade, don’t do much for me so after a few minutes I head down to the Dugout, a bear bar, to get a beer. It is packed, the type of environment where Phil is instantly best friends with the person pressed next to him but where I quietly sip my drink. After a while I head out to the street, some people hanging around, and most importantly air to breathe.
As I am standing there a fellow starts to talk with me – a few years older and one who has been there for the past forty years. Mark brings a different perspective, we are both wandering alone, so we decide to wander together, and wander we do for the next three hours. There is talking and a certain element of sexuality. We talk of life, relationships and hooking up. At some point I check my cell phone and there is a missed call from Phil. It seems that Stan and his friend have wandered off and Phil is available. We arrange to meet – me, my new friend Mark and of course Phil; we pick a spot but with the parade, closed streets, crowd control, this is more an odyssey than a stroll.
We arrive and it is strangely uncomfortable – Phil and Mark are not cut out for each other and Phil decides to head back to the Dugout where his friends have gone while Mark and I wander the other direction, potentially back to the apartment…. As we wander Mark’s desires cool with the air and the moment, if there was one, is gone. Mark thinks his old boyfriend may be at the Dugout and wants to walk back there. Now it is getting interesting – the Dugout is where Phil went to reconnect with Stan and his friend. It is not a big place – running into them is almost assured. I call Phil – he knows the dilemma quite well – and he tells me to do what I like, not exactly a ringing endorsement for running into them. I am happy to skip it all but Mark is hell bent on going and at that point we were still wandering together.
We approach the bar and I immediately spot Phil and the crew – standing on the street talking among themselves. And I realize that I am not ready for this, I cannot go and make believe that I have not seen Phil in weeks or months. Presumably Stan has a good idea that I am still in the picture but while I may write like a drama queen, I try not to live like one. Circumnavigating them is not difficult and Mark and I check out the scene. Now Mark is nice but three hours was just fine so I excuse myself to head into the bar for a beer before hitting the streets again. As I approach, there is Phil and Stan, presumably saying good bye, arms wrapped around each other, a very private moment in a very public place.
Now this is no surprise – they spend a night or so together each week, close friends for upwards of seven years. I quickly slide into the bar and over a Bud light consider it. Of course they were saying good bye and after downing my beer, out comes the cell. Phil, on his own now, is not far away – we speak for a moment and five minutes later it is time for the evening festivities to begin…