Man Enough, page 1
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About the Author
I want to thank my sisters, Laura and Dorothy who read every page over and over again as I was writing and editing and rewriting and throwing things away in fits of despair.
My friend Aj Jones who listened to the synopsis of every chapter and either said, “That works” or “That doesn’t sound like something Andy would do.”
Linda Kay Silva, writer and professor extraordinaire, who got tired of me telling her that I wanted to be a writer and finally told me to “Shut up and write.”
John Evjen for designing the cover. Of course, he is family, so he didn’t have a choice. But thank you anyway, John John.
Christine A. Thomas, the amazing editor who put up with me emailing her all of the time saying “Is it ready yet? How about now?”
Finally, much love goes to my friend Kimeleon Hall Considine who stood by me through many long years of not being a very good friend. I love you, Kimothy!
To Professor Silva who forced me to stop talking about it and just do it.
I am on the worst date of my life. Okay, it probably isn’t the worst date of my life. I mean, it definitely isn’t worse than the date with the guy who poured ketchup over all of his food and snapped his gum throughout the entire meal. And it can’t compare to the one with the guy who brought his mother on our first date because he was sure we would all be the best of friends. It is definitely up there on the list of worst dates, though. See, I hate blind dates. They are just one more form of torture in an already humiliating activity. Dating just sucks anyway. I really hate dating. In fact, I haven’t dated in almost two years, but I got into this stupid challenge with my friends and I let my friend Steve set me up with this guy. There is no good reason to think that Steve would be good at setting me up. First of all, he’s gay, so he has an entirely different perspective on what makes a quality man. Secondly, I think he just assumes that as long as two people have orientation in common, they will be a perfect match. “Well, he’s straight, she’s straight. They’re made for each other!” I had never fallen for one of his schemes before, but I have seen the awkward short term matches that have come from his romantic meddling. Why do people in long term relationships always insist on setting up their single friends?
So, I am sitting across the table from a good looking man. He picked a good restaurant, I have to give him that. We are at a new place in downtown Cleveland, known for using only fresh, locally grown produce and, apparently, organic, local meat. My date is tall, blond and handsome. He’s pretty buff, too. I mean, let’s be fair, he is gorgeous. I told him that he kind of looks like a male version of my best friend Andy, but for some reason, he didn’t find that amusing. We’ve been trying to make small talk for an hour now and every time we launch into a new subject, I get more irritated with him. And, by default, Steve.
We started badly when we were ordering. I ordered a raw cashew stir fry. I’m a vegetarian, but I am trying hard to go fully vegan. So far, I haven’t quite gotten there, mostly because of the gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at my favorite restaurant, Polly’s on Clifton. Anyway, when the waitress came to take our order, he ordered a steak.
“You said on the phone you were a vegetarian,” I said.
“I mostly am. I mainly eat vegetarian, I just like to order steak at restaurants.”
“Well, then you aren’t a vegetarian.”
“Mostly a vegetarian.”
“Fine, I’ll have the fucking stir fry.”
“That isn’t the point.”
It only got worse from there. I don’t have a television; he apparently has several shows that he can’t miss. In fact, he has already warned me that he has to cut our date off at exactly nine-thirty so that he can be home in time to watch his favorite show. Classy. We’ve already covered music. He thinks Green Day is punk music and his favorite bands are Creed and Nickleback. He doesn’t read Vonnegut. In fact, he doesn’t read at all. And we haven’t even touched on gay rights yet. I am not hopeful.
“So, what do you do for a living … uh … Ted?” I say.
“I couldn’t possibly explain it so that you would understand,” he says, which doesn’t stop him from launching into the world’s longest and most boring explanation of some kind of computer programming. I let my eyes slide away, half-listening, waiting for a moment to say, “uh huh.” I’m having the hardest time paying attention to Ted, anyway, because during his last boring soliloquy, detailing the plot of his favorite television show and the background on all of the characters, I looked over at the table next to me and saw an angel. I don’t mean that in some gooey, romantic sort of way. I mean, if I was a famous casting director and Steven Spielberg called me and said, “Find me an angel for my next movie,” this guy would be my first choice.
Now I can’t forget that he is over there, and though I have been fighting to keep myself from looking over, I feel an actual physical pull turning my eyes toward to him. Every time I look at him, he catches my eye and smiles, a soft, beautiful, commiserating smile. He is sitting there with Sirens of Titan open in front of him, but Im sure he is listening to our pained conversation. In fact, I think I heard him chuckle when Ted and I were discussing our opposing views on great music.
“… And the data stream technology which would parallel the multi-functional code…” Ted is still droning. I risk a glance at the next table. The angel is still there. I can’t keep my eyes off of his face. It is perfect. Literally perfect. He has pale blue eyes, with dark, thick lashes and brows. His jaw is strong, his nose long and straight. He has pale skin and longish dark brown hair.
Ted has finally stopped talking. He seems to be waiting expectantly, so I’m sure he has just asked me a question.
“I apologize, I didn’t hear. Could you repeat that?” I ask.
“I was just wondering what you do for a living.”
“I’m in the fundraising department for The Care Center.”
“It’s a foundation that provides counseling and other services to at-risk LGBT youth.”
Ted is looking at me blankly. “LGBT?”
“Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans-gender, Transsexual.”
. Ted hasn’t moved or blinked so I continue.
“Well, sometimes these days, you’ll see it as LGBTQ, which some say stands for ‘questioning,’ though others say it stands for ‘queer,’ which really encompasses a broader spectrum of people. Some people think “queer” is a good term for anyone who falls outside of the societal norm, such as gay people, or gender questioning people, gender neutral people, transsexual people, or perhaps someone who does not considered him or herself transsexual, but identifies as one gender, while having the biological sex of the other.”
Ted is starting to look pained. Obviously, I am not explaining this well.
“Transgendered really means anyone who falls outside of the standard binary gender system, in any way at all. Transsexuals are born into the wrong body. So, a person might have been born in a male body, but she knows in her heart that she is female. Whether or not she takes it any further than that is up to her. Some people take hormones or have surgeries, but some don’t want to go through the pain and uncertainty of all of that so they…” I stop myself. “Davey, stop talking,” I whisper.
Ted looks shell shocked. “Excuse me?”
“I’m a babbler. Sorry. I k
“But, you’re not gay.” He raises his eyebrows.
“Well, why not work with normal teenagers.”
“Normal?” I choke a bit on the word. This guy can’t be for real. “Who decides the criteria for normal?”
“Oh, please.” Ted is incredulous. “Why would you, if you are actually straight, spend your time giving special help to people who choose to be gay?”
The angel is flat out watching us now. He isn’t even pretending to read. I can feel his stare and for some reason, I feel as if he’s waiting to see what I’m going to say next. I throw a glance at him and he smiles at me.
“It’s unnatural,” Ted is insisting. Unnatural. This from a douche-nozzle who posts pictures of his BMW on his Facebook page. Now, that is unnatural.
I’m sure he’s about to bust out the abomination against nature argument. Or perhaps he is getting ready to use the “But it’s in the Bible” bullshit. I decide to head him off.
“Ted, how old were you when you decided to be straight.”
“Seriously, at what age did you say to yourself, ‘You know, I really want to fuck the pool boy, but no, I choose to be straight?’”
Ted stands up and throws some money on the table.
“Obviously this isn’t going to work.”
I snort. “Obviously.”
The angel is speaking to me. I look up.
“He’s ignorant and you’re amazing. Don’t let a dick like this ruin your evening.”
Ted turns around and glares at the angel. “Dick? You have a problem, asshole?”
The angel, stands up to his full height which ends at about Ted’s chin and looks up at Ted’s 6 foot four bulk. “No, not a problem, per se,” the angel says. “I’m just wondering how such an ignorant asshole can somehow rustle up the brain cells required to not only come up with individual words, but to string them together in a sentence.”
I can’t help but let out a laugh. The angel glances at me, grinning. Ted is clenching his fists and a vein is starting to throb in his forehead.
“Ted. Come on. Just leave. You don’t care about me. You don’t care about him. Just go.”
Ted looks at the angel one more time, then stalks out of the restaurant. I turn to look at the angel and he looks overjoyed. “That was kind of awesome.”
“What would you have done if he punched you?”
He shrugs. “I would have fought back long enough for someone else to jump in and save me.”
I laugh. “I would have protected you.”
He shakes his head. “No, you would have gotten out of the way. Why else would I be fighting that dick if not to protect you?”
His voice is amazing. I’m enthralled. It’s soft, yet kind of deep. I want him to keep talking.”I didn’t know angels used words like ‘dick.’”
The angel blinks, then grins. “My name is Danny.”
“Danny,” I say flatly. Great, I love it. Danny and Davey. I can’t date this guy, we’d be the Bobbsey Twins. Stupid creative mother. Why couldn’t I have been a Susan? “Well, Danny,” I hold my hand out to shake his. His hand is so soft. I look into his eyes and feel a flush creeping up my face. I am probably losing it, having a post traumatic stress reaction to the horror that was Ted. “Danny. My name is Davey.”
Danny laughs. “Davey. I love it. Danny and Davey. Davey and Danny. That is so cutesy.”
“I knew a Tom and Tanya once,” I say.
“I knew a Chris and Christine,” he laughs.
“I knew the Warrens. Warren one and Warren two. They had matching floor length fur coats. As a vegetarian and an animal lover, I should be ashamed of this, but I loved hugging them goodbye at parties.”
Danny is laughing appreciatively. His laugh is soft, too. His eyes crinkle when he laughs. I’m starting to think like a romance novel. I have got to get out of here.
“Well, thank you,” I say. “I appreciate you stepping in.” I check the bill to make sure Ted has left a big enough tip. Of course, he hasn’t, so I toss in some more money.
“Do you need a ride? He didn’t leave you stranded, did he?”
“No, no, never let a man pick you up on the first date, my mother always says.”
“Well, at least let me walk you to your car,” Danny looks concerned. “Downtown at night isn’t always safe.”
“Danny, I’m fine. I’m parked right next to the entrance.” I turn to go.
“Davey, wait.” Danny runs a hand through his hair. It looks like a casual gesture, but it is probably one of those things guys practice in the mirror. His hair is now adorably messy. I resist the urge to smooth the pieces back into place.
“Just because your date ended badly, doesn’t mean your evening has to end badly,” he says. “Let’s have coffee and dessert and talk.”
I have to admit, I am tempted. I mean, the guy did stand up against Ted. Of course, if they had gotten into a fist fight, Danny would have gotten his ass kicked, but it’s the thought that counts. Still, you can’t just start the date with one guy and end with another, that’s slutty. On the other hand, Andy does it all of the time and look how happy she is. Still.
“Danny, thank you, but I better go. It was nice meeting you.”
Danny is nodding but he looks disappointed. “At least take my number,” he says. “If you want to talk, call me.” Talk, right. He may look like an angel, but he is a guy. On the other hand, he is beautiful. I give him a quick hug and head out to my car. I look back at the angel once more before leaving. He’s still staring at me. I don’t know whether to feel flattered or uncomfortable, so I opt for flattered.
Sitting in my car, I hold my cell phone, trying to decide who to call first. This is obviously Steve’s fault, he set me up with the asshole. But really, this all goes back to Andy and that crap she pulled at the bar last week.
We were sitting at our permanently reserved table at Janie’s Bar. Andy had one of her ridiculously long legs draped over my lap. My other good friend, Lynne, was sitting cross legged in her chair. I was leaning back, arms behind my head, completely relaxed. Several drinks had already been consumed. Andy was buying shots to celebrate a new record in one of her charity races. She is one of those women who would seriously piss off other women if she weren’t a dyke. That’s Andy’s label for herself, by the way. I say she’s a butch, if anything, but really, I generally just call her my best friend. She is six feet tall, with unfairly amazing cheekbones, bright blue eyes, naturally light blond hair and a perfect nose. I hate my nose. Andy and I grew up together. We met in second grade when she was being harassed by two of the tough girls in the class. I screeched up on my bike, hopped off of it, raised it over my head and threw it at one of the girls. Later, Andy said I looked like a seven-year-old Janis Joplin, with a wild eyed rage on my face and my brown hair all frizzed out around my face. It could have been true, anyway, as she died the day I was born, October 4th, 1970. Lynne believes in reincarnation. I’m still not sure what I believe, though I like the idea of coming back and trying again.
This is a normal Thursday routine for us. Janie’s is in Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland. It is the middle ground between us and Lynne. Andy lives in Bay Village. We both grew up in Bay, but as a grown-up, I can’t afford to live there. So, I am across the tracks in Westlake, still close enough to Andy’s to walk, but far enough away from Bay that I can pay rent and still eat. Lynne lives with her wife in a big house
On that particular Thursday, Lynne was in rare form.
“Davey,” she tells me. “I have a theory.”
Oh god, here we go again. Lynne is one of those “I have a theory” stoners. Every time she smokes, she comes up with some interesting new theory, or some deep question we must all answer. Lynne and I met in our twenties at a feminist book club. She asked me out for coffee and we went. I was having a great time, she was having a great time and it wasn’t until she tried to kiss me afterward that I realized that she thought it was a date. Fortunately, she wasn’t that interested in me to begin with and I am one of those liberal, lesbian-loving straight chicks, so instead of either of us being offended, we decided to keep hanging out. I love Lynne because she is utterly adorable. She calls herself a crunchy granola lesbian. Birkenstocks, long, flowing skirts, strands and strands of necklaces, long, flowing hair, very little makeup. We both have dark brown hair and deep brown eyes. We even kind of look alike, except that she is a pixie at about 5’1” and 100 pounds and the only thing pixie about me is my haircut. I am about 5’7” and … well, there’s no need to put a number to my weight. Suffice to say I curve where Lynne indents. She’s soft and vulnerable and I’m big and tough. I may not look like a supermodel, but I could probably squat in a field, pop out a kid, and go back to the harvest.
“Davey, listen. This is important.”
Andy and I looked at each other, shrugged, and motioned Lynne to go on.
“Okay, I have a theory. You are adorable, well-read, financially stable, and a fairly decent cook, but you can’t get a boyfriend.”