Finding love can be as effortlessly rewarding as the first sun-filled afternoon of spring. But seasons are unpredictable. The great outdoors isn't the only thing tested by fluctuating temperatures and unforeseen acts of nature.
I'm sitting in a bar with my partner of three years, two of my closest gal pals and the gay male friend who's been visiting from Germany for the week. It's Thurston's last night in town, and the plan is to make it as memorable for him as possible.
But with dinner at a Korean restaurant and now drinks at a local gay bar, we're only two-thirds there. Thurston is intent on a dance club finale.
The others aren't so keen. It's a place my boyfriend has never really approved of, and my lesbian friends are still recovering from the Dionysian displays they witnessed there the week before. All eyes turn to me.
It's been an exhausting week, but after two beers, two cosmos and three cigarettes, my inner - usually dormant - ambassador of the gay community rises like a phoenix from the ashtray. I quietly decide that on his last night in the city it's my duty to show our visitor a good time so to speak. My partner offers me a loving yet cautionary look as we go our separate ways for the next few hours.
Thurston and I enter the front door of the club, and I think again of how this place was one of my faves when I was single and a bit of a tart.
Years ago, walking through the door was like wandering into a sexual Shangri-La for the night. No heartstrings attached.
As we wait in line at the coat check, my attention is drawn to the gay porn on the television set mounted in the corner. Like a deer briefly caught in the headlights, I watch intently as one hot and sweaty buck pounds the first reluctant yet ultimately hungry ass of another with a cock that could plow its way to China.
"I need a drink," I announce to Thurston. We escape to the second floor, far away from the moaning temptations trapped onscreen.
We're halfway through our second beer when Thurston notices a stranger in orange nylon pants, white T-shirt and baseball cap. The attraction is clearly mutual. Agent Orange climbs the stairs to the third floor, his lingering gaze offering Thurston a quietly suggestive invitation to follow him.
"That was subtle," I joke.
"I'll be right back. No more than 10 minutes," he promises.
"Don't be ridiculous. Take your time. I'll either be here or on the dance floor," I reply, offering my sincere blessings.
Twenty minutes pass and the German is nowhere in sight. I begin to feel a bit uneasy. Would Thurston have left with Agent Orange without first telling me? What if people see me standing here alone and unwisely conclude I'm looking for some action? What if someone acts on that thought? How do I reject someone without making him feel rejected? Why am I making this more complicated than it is?
I grab my final beer from the bar and head out to the dance floor. I'm deep into the movement of my body when I feel a tap on my shoulder.
"I've been told I must leave now," Thurston shouts to me over the pulsating music as he motions to Agent Orange by the staircase. He smiles enthusiastically, and I wish him a safe trip tonight and journey home tomorrow.
With both of our missions for the night accomplished, I decide to finish my beer and then get my ass back home to whom it belongs.
No sooner does Thurston fade from the crowd than I feel someone's hands brushing up against my ass. Naively, I ignore the attention and continue to dance. Another dude appears in front of me. With the confidence of a seasoned predator he takes a step forward, slowly gyrating hips and all.
If this were a more traditional fairy tale, my own man would appear on a white horse and rescue me from this awkward moment. But it's not, and I'm left to fend for myself. Either that or be the meat in a dance-floor sandwich.
"No thanks," I politely say to the man I'm facing, and then again to the hands behind me, two words I've rarely said in this establishment, I realize.
The walk home allows me time to reflect on what's just gone down. Past relationships have never prevented me from having a little harmless, sweaty fun on the dance floor with a hot stranger or two. So why the sudden change of heart?
But that's just it. A change of heart has led to a change of mind. What I considered harmless fun in the past is suddenly an act of infidelity. While intellectually it seems ridiculous to me, emotionally it's undeniable.
When I crawl into bed with my partner, it's a reality I embrace. And love.