Setting: Good Friends Bar, French Quarter, New Orleans
For my brother, Nicky
© Copyright 2015 by Sara Jacobelli
“Truman Capote said, Truman said, I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something like, ‘You can get anyone in bed you want, if you really put your mind to it.” Good looking, fortyish, wearing a tight blue polo shirt and tight jeans, he surveyed the street from his barstool, flexed his gym-toned muscles, downed his margarita in two gulps. “Anyway, SOMEthing like that.”
“Sounds good to me,” the bartender said, mopping up some spilled beer on the bar. “If only I could concentrate better. I can’t concentrate on nothin but sports.”
“Oh, it sounds like a terrible waste of time,” said the denizen of the corner stool. Older, serious looking, sporting a seersucker suit and bow tie, he took off his Panama hat, revealing a mane of silver hair. “Why waste your time pursuing some shallow being that you probably won’t want once you get him. People like you—” he waved his hand in the first man’s direction—“people like you just want the thrill of the chase. People like you are so terribly shallow and vain that they don’t see what’s really important in Life.” He frowned. “G & T, Gerald. Bombay, with a squeeze of lime. And whatever Lover Boy over here is having.”
“Gimme a shot a Jaeger. “ The first man rolled his eyes. “You don’t even know ME, or what the fuck I’m talking about. I do like that natural gray of yours though, very classy, you got a whole Dashiell Hammett thing going on there. I know I come across as shallow. You see—there’s this guy—alright, he IS young and cute. So what? He’s a short order cook over at the Clover Grill, and believe me, when he bends over that grill and fries those eggs. The point I’m trying to make is, at one time, see, I was the hottest boy dancing upstairs in the Parade Disco at the Bourbon Pub. Slender, tan, bleached blonde, and I mean hot. My Levis had a twenty seven inch waist. So—”
“Don’t tell me. Your name has to be Barry. It’s Barry, Lance, or Ken. It has to be.”
“Well, it’s Lance, actually, and yeah, it IS a bit much, I know. I changed my name in the eighties. I’m from St. Louis, and my parents named me—get this—John Michael Johnson. I mean, I had to do something. And they dragged us to church constantly, Baptists, I had to get out of there and sleep with some Catholics. Anyhow, my parents threw me out when they find out I was gay. They prayed for me, then tossed my ass out. First I hitchhiked to The City—San Francisco—the Whole Armistead Maupin Tales of the City deal—hustled my tight little ass to survive—-partied, partied, partied—slept with every cute boy I met in the baths and the bars, and DIDN’T get AIDS. I felt so lucky, with so many friends dying, I felt like I was fucking Invincible. Immortal. Plus I was shooting a lot of speed at the time and that shit makes you feel like you can run to the moon and back and then go out and party all night, stay up for days, living on nothing but onion rings and love. That sounds like a song, doesn’t it? Onion Rings and Love?” Lance downed his shot and pointed at his glass. “Yuck. That stuff’s so nasty, but I gotta get my nerve up and try to get this young hottie’s attention. He goes to Oz every night. He’s so fucking cute. Twenty two, twenty three, something like that.” Lance grabbed his cigarettes and lighter and stood on the sidewalk. “We can still smoke out here in front of the bar, can’t we, Gerald, honey?”
The bartender nodded and waited on a herd of tourists who wandered in screaming for drinks. Lance turned toward the older man. “So, after burning myself out in San Francisco, I took the Greyhound to New Orleans, got gigs waiting tables, and well, here I am. Still here. So what’s YOUR name? Herbert? You look like a Herbert. Definitely a Herbert.”
“My mother, poor misguided soul, gave me the most unfortunate name known to Mankind. ‘Milquetoast Tiberious Rutherford.’ Hence, everyone calls me ‘Rutherford.’ “
“Oh God, should I go to Oz and dance the night away and snort coke and drink tequila and then have hot wild meaningless—but very good— sex with Jimmy—or was it Timmy? Whatever. Or should I stay here and indulge in deep, meaningful conversation—with—‘Milquetoast Tiberius Rutherford’?”
“Go ahead and laugh,” Rutherford adjusted his striped bow tie. “Everyone does. Have fun with your Little Friend. I’m going home, to Charlie and Gertrude and a bottle of Chianti and a stack of Bogart movies from the library.”
“A threesome? You hardly seem the type!”
“Charlie is a long haired dachshund. Gertrude is a Manx cat. I’m a widower. Martin died eight years ago. The problem with a perfect relationship—and it WAS perfect—we drank, we danced, we dined, we traveled throughout Europe—enjoyed our pets, our friends, our Mardi Gras Krewe. The problem with a perfect relationship is that—unless you die together in a plane crash—the problem is that one of you must go first, and leave the other behind. Leave the other to roll over in bed in the middle of the night and reach for you, and you’re not there.”
“Oh honey, that’s way too morbid for me. I’m too young for that kind of talk. Enough Jagermeister, gimme another margarita, Gerald. And hurry. Please.”
“You’re not THAT young, Lance.”
“Oh, I am, I still have a lot of growing up to do. I mean. My teens were just tragic. Tragic. Except for that one football player in high school. But He wouldn’t be seen with me in Public. Kids today don’t know how lucky they are. I mean, it’s fucking Cool to be Queer nowadays. High School was like Lord of the Flies meets Dante’s Inferno meets Mean Girls meets Hairspray. Then I went wild with all that freedom when I got to San Francisco. I bounced through my twenties—literally bounced—from club to club, from party to party, from drug to drug—oh God, remember Ecstasy?”
“I believe that I skipped that particular sensation.”
“Well, anyway, by the time I got to thirty, I was like, you know, I’m not dealing with that mortality crap. So I kinda put off dealing with thirty, until—” Lance finished his cigarette, leaned in close to Rutherford. “I didn’t really accept thirty, until I got to forty. Now, forty—I’m putting that puppy off until, well, you know,”
“Fifty?” Rutherford raised his eyebrows. He took a sip of his gin and tonic.
“Shhhh, not so loud. Anyhow, wish me luck. I’m off to the Wonderful World of Oz, and I’m gonna try that Truman Capote thing, where if you work really hard, ooh, you know, HARD—you can get ANYONE you want in bed. Absolutely Anyone.”
“You gentlemen need anythin else?” the bartender pointed at their glasses. “Hey—Tiberius—that’s James T Kirk’s middle name, Captain Kirk, from Star Trek. Your ma’s taste ain’t so bad.”
“Mother had the worst taste. That Sears furniture and those canned peas—they’re IMPRINTED on my mind for Eternity.” Rutherford stood up, stretched his long legs.
“I didn’t realize you were so tall,” Lance said. “Well, gotta go! Wish me luck!”
“You two ain’t together?” the bartender asked. “Thought you was a couple.”
“Me and him? Rutherford? Chianti and Humphrey Bogart and Charlie the Dog and Beatrice the Cat?”
“Gertrude. The Cat’s name is Gertrude. Maybe later, when you’re done dancing.”
“Really?” Lance stood on the sidewalk and watched Rutherford walk down Dauphine Street, a tall elegant, and yes, distinguished gentleman.
“Hey Milquetoast Tiberius! Do you have popcorn?”
Rutherford stopped at the corner and turned around. “Popcorn? Of course I have popcorn. Do you think I could watch Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, and The African Queen, without popcorn?”
“Wait for me!” Lance ran down the street, remarkably light on his feet for a forty seven year old.
Photo Credit: “Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall,” studio still. Pixabay Free Images. CC Public Domain Photo.