W and I had our third date at a gay bar in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, called Frank Jeffreys.
This was my bar.
This was my gay bar.
That night, we bellied up to the old wooden bar.
The bartender knew my name.
He knew my usual.
“Hey, Russ. How’s it going?” I asked.
I figured I was scoring points with W. I was racking them up like a human pinball machine. Ka-ching.
That night, we talked with Russ about labels. And laughed about that time I got hit on by a dude.
“Am I sending out the right signal?” I had asked.
Russ assured me I was with my cargo pants and flannel shirt and short haircut.
I remember lots of details from that night: Flirting with W. Taking her back to my place to watch the movie Kinsey. Being too shy to make a move.
“I thought you were asexual,” W would later confess.
Frank Jeffreys closed years ago.
When we pass by the building that is now home to a shiny new pub, I say remember when …
And I remember the way my heart sped up every time I saw the old rainbow flag that hung in the window.
The way the door knob felt smooth and cool in my hand.
How my Dr. Martens boots sounded walking on the sticky old wooden floor.
The way I felt like a butch boss sitting at the bar.
But mostly I remember the way it felt to be a part of something, to belong, to fit in for once in my life. To feel safe inside those walls because in that space it was okay to be me.