I’d been wandering around doing who knows what – probably nothing. Probably sad and mopey and confused and depressed. Back in those days I had nothing to do and nowhere to go. Shit, still don’t today, really.
But I remember that afternoon the Gay Pride Parade came through the neighborhood. I remember sitting on the curb to watch, knowing it was likely the most entertaining thing I’d see in a day otherwise spent doing nothing. It was a simple enough presumption because who doesn’t like parades – like who doesn’t like puppies and kittens and babies and cupcakes and fireworks and cotton candy?
In fact, a few years earlier I was driving my father somewhere when we got stopped, front row, to let the same parade pass. My conservative father took it in stride. There were things we saw that I think were meant to be shocking, but neither of us seemed shocked. That day we at least found that in common, and the parade was entertaining enough back then that I had reason to presume it would be good enough again.
This time, as it made its way down Clifton Avenue, I took a seat on the curb to watch. As the parade came along, some guy sat on the curb next to me. There was plenty of empty space on the curb. He was close to my age.
He sat next to me and said, “Hi,” which I politely returned.
Maybe he’s gay, I’d imagined.
But, if so, so what?
He wasn’t wearing any clear identifier. And, for me, it needed to be clear cause I wasn’t all that close to the culture. Still, I’ve never had the phobia about the gays. As a group, they’ve always been plenty cool in my book.
Or maybe he just likes parades too. Maybe he’s just friendly or as fucked up as me. Or all of it.
I decided to just sit there and let whatever unfold.
The parade passed. Between all the rainbows and kissing and floats of male bondage, we chit-chatted about nothing. I decided to chalk it up to him being a friendly guy or a fellow aficionado of festivities. Maybe he was intoxicated by the exhibition and his inhibitions were tempered. I didn’t wanna make any other assumptions or presumptions. I wasn’t supposed to. A good little tolerant boy living in the city wasn’t supposed to.
As the parade passed he kept chatting, asking me about where I lived and what I did. I explained all that as the luxury cars and floats and large banners – many corporate sponsored – passed us. It seemed like a strange thing to me. Seemed like a strange thing the supermarkets and real estate agencies would get in on the whole social movement business, but that’s what they do. It just seemed so obviously opportunistic and exploitative. So strikingly ‘let them eat cake’-ish. It was just a strange thing to behold – all the kissing and rainbows and cheerleading – all going on behind the banners and on the floats of Kroger and PNC Banking and Horseshoe Casino. And the tie-ins to other criss-crossing political agendas. And the flamboyance and attention-seeking for the sake of flamboyance and attention-seeking had a pretty pungent stank of the adolescent. And, though overwhelmingly jovial, the whole thing seemed quite impure – as any mass social movement mixed with the agendas of corporate giants ought to be.
We kept chatting, pleasantly enough, but my intuition kept nagging that there was the chance there was more to our conversation than mere friendliness. But I couldn’t be sure. Again, didn’t wanna be presumptuous. No women showed me much romantic or carnal interest so why should I assume this random stranger might? Then again, we were sitting together watching a Gay Pride Parade. And, across from a park known for cocksucking in the restrooms and buggering in the brush. I’d been in that park many times, never participating, but it never bothered me either. So when he asked what I liked to do, I said me and my girlfriend liked to go out to listen to music.
It was a bit of a lie. I hadn’t had a girlfriend in a while, but, when I did, that was something we liked to do.
He looked at me quizzically.
“So you’re bi-?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Are you even gay?”
“No,” I said.
Without another word, he stood up and walked away.
I remained sitting alone on the curb, a straight dude watching the Gay Pride Parade, wondering if I’d done something wrong.
It’s taken a while to understand what happened that day, but I’m pretty sure that’s the way it should have gone all along.