The shoes are black- boots, size 11, and leather with a zip up side. They cost more than three grocery bills at New Seasons. Tonight I am breaking them in. I walk six blocks before I realize that I am an idiot. The shoes are tight. My jeans are tight (and yes, there is only one pair of underwear that fits those jeans). My winter pea coat is hot. I am sweating and not in the sexy hot beach volley ball way. I feel silly, and I am in pain. High heels be-damned, this Cinderella, needed the advice of a fairy god mother. Thankfully in a few minutes I would be meeting my own.
She is beautiful. She has silver-white hair. A laugh that spills a broken pearl necklace onto the pavement, and a wit that the years have honed to a sharp, silver, hat pick she wears proudly. I am never bored. I am never certain, but I am never bored. I am meeting, the godmother, Wenzl, at a gallery opening before heading to Dar Salam to meet a co-chorister for dinner, conversation, and hopefully directions to the ball.
By the time I arrive I am in a mood. I at 14th and Alberta street, hobbling as gracefully as one of my stature allows while looking for a red trailer, when I spy her, a welcome addition to the gathering crowd. Her silver-white hair is unmistakable. Obligatory hugs and she gestures to the open door. I tell her it’s the wrong gallery, but she insists. I never argue with any of the Wenzl clan and so we enter. Inside we are greeted by video camera’s, cute-trim-bearded- muscled soccer players (I confess to her that soccer players are the most fit of all athletes with a delicious grin), and complimentary glasses of wine. I am glad that I dressed up to be seen. I am in my element. The crowd presses in. She asks me, what is happening, I say something about the Trailblazers, and I am corrected by two elderly, sensitive, slightly-and I must add, guiltily overwhelmed, patrons of the evening.
It’s the soccer team, they whisper to me.
What? I say loudly, what soccer team. I’m here for the art as I drink the wine greedily. Paula nudges me. Oh thank-god, said the couple, you’re one of us.
We share our secret as the room continues to compress with low-fashion testosterone, all in anticipation of the unveiling of the new soccer kit. I am hot, so I slowly, take off my coat and reveal the trim black club shirt I had worn, with a flash of rainbow silver dangling from my neck. I get stares, but hey, isn’t that the point? My feet are killing me. The crowd become tedious while I flirt with my eyes, and keeps my hands out of my wallet, picking which I would go home with if I could. There is one –entitled old growth that feature a graffiti-esque black man split, and comments on the growth of the city, and Alberta street specifically, as we get of the old and replace it with the new.
After the anti-climactic unveiling of the new jerseys, we leave. I am headed to the next gallery, to walk, gingerly down the street, but the god mother Wenzl, stops me. They are offering free carriage rides by bike.
You gotta protect your feet, she says, as she wipes the rain of the seat. Why am I letting her wait on me. I joke that I am putting the cess back in prince. She snorts, cuddles into my arms, and we ride the four blocks to the matchbox sized Antler gallery to question a young man whose hair matched the twisted roots in his drawings, and leave him bewildered as we analyzed his psychological shortcomings as a man, wondering when he’d realized that women are not sexual goddesses to be worshiped, but real people. I’d come back in a few years to see his work. There is potential, but, not till he figures out the sex thing.
At that point in the evening, I say goodbye to my Fairy godmother, the carriage-ride, the over-crowded galleries, and I find myself sitting in Dar Salam, across from a fellow chorister from the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. I’d say we are meeting for coffee, but that’s code, and only those closest to me, knows what that tongue-in-cheek reference could mean. For the rest of you, this is a getting-to-know. Do not read too much into this, I am, after all a horrible flirt and everyone is fair game.
He is older than me, but not in gay years. We quickly fall to the awkward sharing of war stories- the fall before the glory, the exploration before the realization, the gradual reluctant acceptance. And now for us both- the what the hell. He is lightly considering the Paleo Diet. I encourage with caution, as he has some medical concerns. We are overwhelmed by the menu of the resturaunt as a metaphor of the conversation. The menu is of Iraqi fare, and there is that word, Shawarma, of Avengers fame, listed causally next to beef, pork, or lamb choices. I flip over the menu and point out to him, that I came here, because I wanted to try the coconut wrapped dates stuffed with Walnuts, clearly on my diet list, and worth the ankle groaning price of entry.
We are greeted by a server who is young in face, young in heart, and carries the cultured service of someone who could instantly be your friend. She explains to us the place is only a year old, and in the future will have information on some of the post carded pictures of Iraq on the wall, and the why and how of what they serve. This tidbit came about because I ordered the black tea with sage, and it came steaming, in a small thin cordial glass with maroon and gold scribing. I was curious and I wanted to know what the glass was. It was cool. The fumes from the tea were herbal and smelled of Nevada in the hottest part of spring. There is an image of dust that lingers in my mind, on my fork, a welcome foreign spice to the water-drenched trends of this city. She bubbles on. Both of us exchanged our cultural ignorance of our heritage, but I defer because she is trying. Twenty minutes later, our plates of Shawarma salad with lamb arrive on a plate of iceberg lettuce sneezed with a bitter spice.
In a rebellious challenge to my palette, I take the red-magical mystery sauce in a plastic squeeze container and splurge it on the plate. It is bitter, tangy, and excruciatingly spicy. I add more and convince him to try it. Though, I probably should have explained the heat factor better, as his eyes opened wide and lit up, not exactly in a pleasant surprise but more in shock. He did not reach for the bottle again. I thought about tucking it in my coat.
The conversation flips back and forth. I am listening. I am shoving my mouth full of food. The plate disappears faster than I anticipate. A gentle word from our server, and out come the dates. The tongue burns. Damn the walnuts, but the dates are oh-so good, not sweet, not bitter, not chunky, but that perfect, smackeral of Paleo. I have one. He has three.
The conversation turns to where most of these conversations turn. We talk openly about sexual preference, boundaries, exploration. I am not sure what else we might be talking about, both of us are new, but both of us are also being cautious. Two writers, two musicians, and two artists in the same room, at the same table, I wonder if anyone else knew what we were talking about as well. But both of us underline the phrase, it is refreshing to be open. I cautiously walk the walls of my personal mental city and keep the gate locked, keys swinging idly from my wrist.
The evening moves along. Later I get my “directions” to the ball, but this is where I leave you. I didn’t walk back. I rode in the car. I think you would agree though, my precious feet needed the relief. Freaking me and my shoes. As I recall Cinderella didn’t walk to her ball. For the concert, I’ve decided, I’m bringing flip-flops.