Chapter 12: Tonality

After they were done they held each other. Dylan was the big spoon and Cather the little. It was sweet of him, but Cather couldn’t sleep like that, so once Dylan had drifted off Cather disentangled himself.

This was a big moment: Cather was no longer a virgin. He’d heard this was supposed to represent something like a leap in maturity, the discovery of the distant reaches of bodily pleasure. It didn’t disappoint. He was finally a man, a gay man, but still. A person who gets what he wants, with the power to make both himself and another happy. He wasn’t convinced that Dylan had what it took to complete him, and he knew coming out of the closet might be awkward. He hadn’t known that about himself with any surety until tonight. Was he required to tell people? Wear it like a badge? His parents, for one, were probably an interested party. Maybe he would have to adopt a family now, not that that problem was likely to require immediacy. It was all very interesting, but he wasn’t afraid. If anyone had a problem with it they weren’t worth the time of day.

He lay awake late into the night. He always had trouble sleeping after taking drinks short of passing out. It had been quite a night. The uniformly young floor staff of Pyramid had had all gone out after closing. They’d walked down Market to a bar in the Castro. He and Dylan had walked together, talking about little things like the election, how much it sucked working at Pyramid, who they found attractive. Dylan had seemed to know, or at least sense, something about Cather of which he was not fully aware. In New Orleans he’d had occasion to fall around with a woman or two, but his heart had never been in it. Here with Dylan he was finally led astray, and now a whole world of carnal pleasures opened before him. He was strong, he was interesting, and he’d shared intimacy with another. And where better to do so, aside from a few blocks on Bourbon Street, than the Bay Area?

Eventually Cather fell asleep. He woke a few hours later when Dylan had to crawl across him to exit Cather’s single bed.

“Are you leaving?” Cather asked.

“I guess I’m just waking up. I have nowhere to be.”

“Want to get breakfast? I have to get my bike from the BART station. It’s only a ten-minute walk.”

“Sounds good to me.”

They got dressed. Cather straightened out the bed covers and kicked some dirty clothes into the corner of his room. He was in high spirits, and even Dylan’s somewhat monosyllabic conversation didn’t overly concern him. Someone here might have something to prove, but not Cather. He’d learned something about himself last night, like discovering a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Now it made sense, his youthful romantic misadventures, or lack thereof: he’d been one of the “alternative lifestyles” all along! He supposed, even with its somewhat smaller pool of members, he had found a new way to relate to friends and strangers alike.

They left his ground floor apartment and walked down Myrtle Street to 18th, took a right and a few blocks later crossed over I-980’s traffic bridge.

“There’s a restaurant called Rico’s on Franklin,” Cather said. “You live in the city, right?”

“Right.”

“Well you can take BART home once we’re done eating. It’s not far.”

“It’s far to get home.”

“Where do you live?”

“Inner Richmond.”

“Yeah, I guess you’ll have to take MUNI, or catch a cab.” This last was how they’d gotten to Cather’s place last night. “Thanks for coming to Oakland. I know it’s out of the way.”

“It’s no problem.”

“You know that old Bay Area dichotomy: near impossible to get San Francisco to come to Oakland, and vice versa.”

“I guess you tickled my funny bone.”

“I guess I did. Maybe next time we’ll go to your house.”

“Maybe so, maybe so.”

The two arrived at Rico’s a few minutes later. It was busy but they were able to secure a table. The both ordered coffee to start with from the pretty Chinese waitress, then, after looking at the menu, scrambled eggs and bacon for Cather, and eggs benedict for Dylan. They waited silently at first. Dylan had a queer frown on his face, which Cather didn’t understand at all. He himself was ebullient.

“Have you ever done anything like this before?” Cather asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You know, gone out, gone home with someone.”

“Of course.”

“Another man?”

“Several times.”

“Man, I didn’t know what I was missing.”

“Your a silly guy, Cather.”

“I have my moments.” And then, a few moments later:

“Thanks for this. I mean that.”

“Oh come on, give it a break, will you?”

“What?”

“I don’t know, you’re being so… positive.”

“Well why the fuck not? You showed me something about myself. I’ll always remember that.”

There might have been a little smile on Dylan’s face now.

“You mean you had a good time?” he asked.

“I did,” Cather replied.

“Well that makes both of us.”

“I’m glad to hear it. One thing I’ve always known about myself is that I like to make people happy.”

“I’m usually not a very happy person.”

“You look happy now.”

“It’s cause you’re chatting me up. But if you’re looking for something stable let me tell you right now you’re barking up the wrong ree.”

“Boy what a strange thing to say.”

Dylan’s smile disappeared. Now he looked self-conscious. 

“Don’t worry,” Cather pursued, “I’m not trying to rope you in. I’m just glad to have finally fucking done it.”

“Sounds normal to me.”

A little while later their orders arrived and they started to eat.

“What are you doing with the rest of your day?” Dylan asked.

Cather took some coffee to wash down his food, then said: “Actually a pretty big step: I’ve been saving up for a while so I can buy an electronic piano so I can finally practice in my place.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yep. There’s a piano store on Piedmont Ave. I’ve had my mind on it for a while. I’ve been stuck practicing while Pyramid’s closing. This will really help me become a full-functioning musician.”

“You’re already a musician.”

“But without an instrument. What a sacrilege.”

“God you’re funny.”

They ate the rest of their meal in relative silence. They each paid for their own plates and coffee. When they left the restaurant they embraced outside, and Cather went up for a kiss (Dylan was taller than him), but managed only to give him a peck on the cheek. Despite his positive attitude this hurt Cather’s feelings a little. He watched Dylan walk away and wondered if that was the end of the two of them. But how special it had felt, if only briefly.

Cather retrieved his bike from where it was parked on 19th and Broadway and rode straight to the piano store to survey his options. It was an important decision, and there were several possible candidates. He chose a Yamaha, relatively inexpensive at $1500, gave them his address, and rode back home to make sure his room was ready for the delivery. He told his roommate was was about to happen but assured him that the order came with headphones. “I’ll never keep you awake, that’s a promise,” he said.

“That’s okay, I’m sure it’ll lighten up the building,” his roommate, whose name was Kyle, answered.

“If it bothers you you can tell me.”

“That’s very considerate of you.”

The piano arrived and Cather tipped the movers $10 each. He spent the rest of the day jamming on some jazz riffs he had played back in New Orleans. Before he knew it it was dark outside, which meant it was ready to go to work. The day had shown tangible developments. It was good to know life wasn’t awful all the time. Maybe he would see Dylan again, maybe he wouldn’t. He’d try to make himself available to him, but he didn’t think he was hugely attached either. Best to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, only now with his own, brand new piano. Considering what a lot of people were going through, Cather believed, convincingly, that he wasn’t doing so bad, all things being equal. Now the question was not giving any of it up, and looking for more. He was pretty sure he was in the right place to do both.

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