“I know someone you might want to meet. He’s a fireman.” My friend Dan told me as we were talking over lunch. I had been unhappy in my nearly one year relationship with a retired police officer. He was cold, distant, and not very trustworthy. I had ignored most of his faults over the past year because he was just so damn attractive.
“What’s he like?” I asked with a half interested grin. “Oh he’s just your type, a big ol’ bear of a man, hairy, husky, and masculine. He’s a total redneck, too.”
“Well…he sounds nice, but I really should focus on fixing my problems with my current boyfriend” I told him. He understood, but hinted I should keep it in mind.
Over the next couple of months he had mentioned this same fireman a couple times, but I told him I was happy and in love, only secretly wishing that I could escape my unhappiness into the arms of a caring, loving man like the one I imagined this fireman to be.
Then, all of a sudden, my boyfriend left me. After all the pain he had put me through, he decided it was he who was going to up and quit so he could be “less tied down.” I had given up part of myself to make him happy, I changed who my friends were, where I went to have fun, I quit smoking, I did everything he wanted me to do, and then he left me to spread his wild oats at the age of 53.
It crushed me. I couldn’t do anything or go anywhere without thinking about him. Even though I was extremely unhappy in my situation, I tried so hard to make things right, I couldn’t just give up. So I decided to distract myself with bars and men. I traveled out of town almost every weekend the following month just to get away from it all.
Then, one day I called my friend and asked about the fireman. Was he still available? Would he want me? Should I wait until it’s less of a rebound? This wonderful, perfect man I had dreamed about and wished was mine could actually be a possibility…or at least he could be some fun and an easy distraction. Either way, I had to meet him.
I was working in Arlington during the time, and my friend had mentioned that the fireman was going to be in town for a convention that weekend. I was traveling to Houston for the pride parade Friday night, so I mentioned I’d like to have lunch with him if it could be set up.
Dan told me he didn’t feel comfortable just giving his cell phone number to me, but that he would give him the heads up and if he seemed to also be interested he could just call me.
I never heard from him. I went on to Houston and had a wonderful weekend. It wasn’t meant to be and I was in no place to dwell on one person. I had my fun and tried to forget all the pain I had been carrying around with me.
The following weekend I was taking my parents to see the gay men’s choir perform their summer concert as a birthday present for my dad. I had purchased 4 tickets without accounting I would be kicked to the curb so abruptly, so I invited my friend Roger to join in place of the boyfriend that was no more. He is also an ex-police officer who looked similar to mine, but we were just friends and he was a nice shoulder to cry on, especially given his distaste for my ex.
We walked into the concert hall and did our usual survey of who we knew vs. who we wanted to know. We said hello to a few bar acquaintances, grabbed a drink, and chatted amongst the crowd. As we were walking by the bar to have another beer before the concert began (we were also still waiting for my parents who are notoriously late to everything), I spotted the most gorgeous man I had ever seen.
There he was, this big, burly, bear of a man in wranglers, sitting at a table all the way on the other side of the room. He was wearing a plaid blueish green and white shirt and a ball cap. He had glasses on. And he was sporting a mustache. I had to meet him.
I immediately grabbed Roger and headed over to see if I could make eye contact. About 10 feet from the table, I noticed a familiar face sitting with this new man of my dreams, my good friend Tom (who also happened to be Dan’s partner of the past 10 or so years).
I always hated it when friends of mine used our acquaintance as a means to meet someone I was talking to, but I decided to give in to hypocrisy and sat down to say hello. I introduced Roger to Tom as a way for him to introduce his companion.
“This is Tim,” Tom said. Roger and I both shook his hand. They asked about my trip to Houston and I told them all about the sights and sounds of the parade, how there were so many hot bears everywhere (I needed to let this stranger know that this young, thin, blonde was into that sort of thing), and how I was still exhausted from all the excitement.
The concert was about to start, so we took our seats. My parents finally showed up and music began. I could not keep my mind off of the man sitting 3 seats to my left. How had I never met him before? I knew everyone in the “bear” community, what rock was he living under? “He must be from out of town or married,” I thought to myself.
During the concert I would try to steal another look just to refresh the image I had in my mind. How could I talk to him more? When was the damn intermission already? And every time I would look over, there he was, staring at me with a huge grin from ear to ear. I would hurry back to the forward position so he couldn’t see just how red my face had turned.
Intermission. “Finally,” I blurted out as I received a few bitchy stares from some queen (the same person who thought it a good idea to bathe in some sort of perfume cocktail he might’ve created himself that nearly suffocated me throughout the show) who thought I was complaining at the quality of the concert and probably didn’t realize I was commenting on my impatience to flirt with my new stranger. I jumped out of the seat, helped my parents down the steep staircase to the main floor, and introduced them to my friends.
Tim was very polite to my parents, taking an interest in what they had to say and what they thought of the show so far. I needed a smoke break, so I excused myself outside. While telling Roger of my new-found infatuation for this mystery man, I spotted him on the phone outside. Perhaps this was my chance to say hello and possibly invite him for a drink later. But alas, he was on the phone, and I was not about to interrupt him as he might find me rude.
Annoyed, and perplexed, I went upstairs to wait for the end of the show, and another chance to present itself. At the end of the concert, I bade my parents farewell, and went on the hunt again. And there he was, on the phone outside. I thanked Roger for waiting with me, but after ten or fifteen minutes, he was still on the phone. There was an after party for members of the choir, so I decided to retreat there to possibly catch him without his mobile device attached to his face the entire time.
After a few beverages at the party, my friend Dan called and said they were just going to go eat dinner. He and Tom were hungry and not in the partying mood. Now anyone who knows me would know that I would never leave an after party to go sit at a boring restaurant when I had already had a few, but because a certain third person was joining them, I decided to hurry over to the dive they chose.
Once I got there, I noticed they were sitting in a booth. Dan and Tom on one side, Tim on the other. “Perfect,” I thought to myself.
I sat down and said hello, ordered some sort of greasy snack, and began to entertain the three of them with my witty stories and slight inebriation. The entire two hours we sat at that table, I felt like my insides were going to burst through my pores as this perfect, amazing man next to me seemed to be getting closer after every breath. It was like a magnet pulling the two of us together.
Right as Dan starting doing the “yawn, time to go home” stretch, I felt something on my leg. I looked down. There was Tim’s hand, ever so slightly rubbing my knee. I nearly melted. It was so subtle, yet so completely romantic. I provided an invitation to have a beer at one of the local gay bars, and as Dan and Tom thankfully declined, Tim expressed interest.
“Well… I could take you back to your hotel…” I told him. They all agreed on that, so we went to the bar and ordered a drink. We sat there for two hours just talking and getting to know each other. And as 2:00AM came, I expressed my “concern” for having too many drinks to drive all the way over to the hotel, when I lived just 2 blocks down the street from the bar. I told him “no funny business, just sleep, I promise.”
We got back to my place, lied on the bed, and had the most passionate night I had had in forever. The entire night I completely forgot about my ex the police officer and how hurt I had felt. I forgot about the regret and self doubt. I forgot about the crying and abandonment I had felt for the past few months. It all disappeared the moment I spotted this charming, handsome, wonderful man across the symphony hall (and he wasn’t too bad in the “performance” department either).
As we were about to finally fall asleep, he told me he loved my apartment and asked what I did for a living. All those hours of chit chat, we never even came to that question. We were too busy discussing Houston vs. Dallas, gay bars, men, how he had thought Roger was my boyfriend and that’s why he never made a pass sooner, how he loved living in the country over the city, the concert we just saw, how my parents appreciated the gays and how cool he thought they were, etc etc.
I told him I worked for an advertising agency and that I loved my job, even though it was extremely stressful and highly demanding. I looked at him and said, “What do you do out there in the country backwoods?”
He looked into my eyes and said, “I’m a fireman.”