My favourite story from Saturday's memorial stems from a chance encounter. I can't remember what I'd left the party room to check on, but it was early and the adjoining dining room was mostly empty. One chunky bear type was loitering there, leaning against a wall. I must have looked puzzled when he greeted me because he immediately identified himself as a friend's boyfriend.
"It's great to finally meet you," I replied.
"Actually you've met me before a couple times."
I scrutinised him further.
My eyes widened. "Wait, are you Helicopter Balls?"
To say he looked chagrinned at that would be an understatement. But let's back up a couple of years.
Bear Night at Touché. There's a cute guy lingering in the hallway. I've tried catching his eye a couple times already, without much luck. But he's wearing a FREE HUGS t-shirt so finally I screw up my courage and ask him, "Is that a genuine offer?"
"Yes it is."
We hug, but it's a little awkward. I can tell from chatting that he's not really interested--he keeps glancing at the men passing by. So I find an excuse to slink away again. I don't remember running into him again that evening.
Another Bear Night at Touché, maybe late in 2015. I run into him in the same hallway. He's not wearing the t-shirt and I make no references to our previous encountre. He's warmer this time and we actually chat. Eventually Big Tim joins us. Free Hugs asks him if they've tricked before. BT considers it a possibility but he isn't sure. FH, however, gets more and more convinced they have. When BT goes, he professes disappointment that their one-night stand wasn't more memorable.
It's during this conversation that I learn about his special talent. He claims to have a scrotum so dangly that it can be twisted around several times and then let spin "like a helicopter". Naturally, I demanded proof and the conversation turned a little flirty. But nothing came of it. At one point, I got the notion that he wanted me to follow him to the backroom, but when I arrived, he was chatting up two other guys and barely took notice of me. You know, the usual. So I went back to the front room to see if anyone I knew was still around.
He left shortly after, but stopped on the way to say goodnight. He said he only got out about once a year and after telling him I'd remember him as "Helicopter Balls", I asked him his real name and made a point of committing it to memory. I figured the next time I saw him, I'd embarrass him with the nickname before revealing that I remembered more about him than just what he could do with his genitals.
But I never saw him again after that. True, I wasn't as faithful an attendee at Bear Night, but I made it more often than not. In all likelihood he wasn't there since he and my friend began dating almost a year ago to the day. So instead of playing out in the corridor at a leather bar, the scene I'd rehearsed was staged in the early afternoon at an Italian restaurant.
I was so amused, I covered my mouth to stifle laughter and spun around. He said, "I guess you did call me that." And then I added insult to injury by adding, "You look different in the light."
Shortly after the buffet was opened, he and his other half took their leave. (They told me they had to work, but I later saw photos of them having lunch with Scruffy at a restaurant in Wrigleyville.) They extended invitations to come visit them in Indiana detailed enough to sound sincere. And just before he left, FH/HB asked him how long I'd been together with monshu
"Nineteen years," I said.
"Any advice for keeping a relationship going?"
My response amounted to, "Don't sweat the small stuff." I gave the example of loading the dishwasher and of hiring cleaning women to stave off arguments about chores. "That was $200 a month well spent," I told them. Will they make it that long? I can only wish them the best.