Blogs Home » Qreative » Steel Closet - a short story

Social Share

Written by:

Writer Info

Related Blogs

Recommended Blog Posts



Posted By Sage     January 3, 2016     717 views     2 likes     0 comments
Before Bob and I got arrested, we were strolling down Christopher Street discussing a long-overdue epiphany of mine that had recently, finally landed. My heart was recently tromped upon by a near-perfect hot gay boy whose only flaw was that he didn’t want to be gay. And while this shoul...  more


Before Bob and I got arrested, we were strolling down Christopher Street discussing a long-overdue epiphany of mine that had recently, finally landed. My heart was recently tromped upon by a near-perfect hot gay boy whose only flaw was that he didn’t want to be gay. And while this should have occurred as a deal-breaker to me the moment it came clear, in my monolithic lust I instead reduced it to a cute and negligible quirk. So naturally when he confessed there was no chemistry between us I was genuinely shocked, and irked. And I proceeded to punish myself for failing to enchant him.

My overlong self-pity fest closed with the vow that any boy who was not secure in who and what he was—not the least of which was a homosexual—was from now on immediately disqualified from this one's dance card.

“Thank God you’re out of that funk,” Bob said to me as we stopped at that one clusterfuck intersection waiting for the light to change. “You were killing me there.” I was genuinely touched. “You and I both know you want someone you can hold hands with down the street and stare into each other’s eyes as you’re waiting at the corner for the light and all that Hollywood-Hallmark bullshit.”

I made what I hoped was a scoffing sound, though of course he was right. It was my maybe-not-so-secret shame that I wasn’t all that sure if I had it in me to hold a guy’s hand in public, gaze adoringly into his eyes, or otherwise live up to any part of my end of that Hollywood-Hallmark fantasy, no matter how badly I wanted it not to be bullshit.

Just then a squat, grungy dude passed by us muttering, “Hashish?” and in typical form Bob’s head swung on his neck like a turnstile. We were dry and had been for days. We were miles and state lines from home, and we were jones-ing bad. Still, for the life of me I couldn’t fathom why Bob was talking to the guy. I stood there flummoxed as, next thing I knew, he and squat, grungy dude skirted the corner together. I hung back.

No high was worth shelling out real cash for the bogus 'hash” this street dealer had to be peddling. I stood there realizing this situation was a possibility Bob and I had never discussed. I probably should have spoken up. Mentioned my discomfort. But would it have made a difference? We weren't boyfriends, I thought. He was his own guy. So I kept quiet and followed several paces behind the negotiation, rolling my eyes in every direction as if that would get me off the hook should God or Big Brother be watching.

If only.

When the deal was finally done Bob and I lurked around awhile in search of a quiet spot to sample our wares. That’s right: a quiet spot in Greenwich Village in the middle of a summery Saturday. To say we weren’t thinking is to put it mildly. We settled on the narrowest, shadiest, least populated street we could find on such short notice.

Bob casually took the first puff, making it look like the pipe was a cigarette. Then I, most likely stalling, asked him if it was any good (as if I thought it possible.) He shrugged and held out the pipe. I did what came naturally.

Before I could even exhale the foul fumes—it turned out not to be any good—two plain-clothed cops swooped down from nowhere and pinned us to the wall. I hung my head low and clammed up, except to say, “No,” they wouldn’t get stuck with anything sharp when they dug through my pockets.

Bob had the weed and the sidewalk had the half-smoked pipe. But that helped me none. I had been “observed”. And while it hadn’t bothered me at all that anyone around might see me smoking weed, apparently it bothered me a lot that people saw me getting caught.

I felt absurd about that several hours later as Bob and I sat in our holding cell along with two other poor saps who were already sulking there when we arrived: a hairy oaf bunched into himself in one corner and a kid who looked too old to be in a grown-up jail cell: both clearly as uninterested in getting acquainted as we were. As for the two of us Bob and I conversed enough in our arguably unhealthily ample hours together that we could sit together comfortably in silence and feel perfectly not alone. Some might interpret this as a sign that maybe Bob was the “one” I’d been seeking all along—but that’s a story for another day.

As for my feelings of shame and absurdity I forgot all about them the second three Latinos homeboys about a decade our juniors were brought in and thrown in with us. I shot Bob a nervous glance that he acknowledged with a barely perceptible nod.

Until then neither of us was worried about our situation. Our records were clean and we both knew it; they’d find nothing on us up in Albany. The peppy processing cop told us we weren’t even supposed to have been caught up in their “operation” in the first place, but there we were.

“So let us go then,” I said.

He assured us we’d be out of there before midnight and that, as long as we showed up for our court date, we had nothing to worry about. We just had to wait it out.

As we waited the trio of homeys started chattering amongst themselves, at first exclusively in Spanish, then as time wore on throwing in bits of English. The only explanation I could come up with for the English was that it was bait: our cellmates wanted to include us in the conversation.

How nice.

As I understood ún poquito de Español I was able to discern without the bonus clues that they were replaying the circumstances of their arrest. They’d been taking an afternoon break from school—technical college, I later learned—smoking a joint in the parking lot when they got picked up. They were bemoaning their own dumb luck. Apparently they’d taken these surreptitious puff breaks plenty before without incident. Despite that fact, for these guys getting arrested seemed as much a ritual as their smoking circles. And they weren’t worried. It put me more at ease.

“You don’t speak English, do you?” the alpha of the group asked—yes, en Ingles—of the hairy oaf in the corner, who gave no answer and no sign of comprehension.

“See, I was right,” said the alpha. “I knew it!” He grinned to his buddies—poked left, poked right—then grinned at us.

Of course, we weren’t looking.

He turned back to the sullen foreigner. “So where you from, then?”

With a groan, the scowling shadow beast peeled himself from wall and opened his mouth—what came out was anybody’s guess. But the persistent alpha, after chopping the language barrier to bits, finally deciphered that the oaf was a German-born Greek. Turns out he was on holiday, due to leave the U.S. in three days. Poor sap.

After a welcome but predictably short-lived silence, the alpha nodded to the pouting kid on the floor, the only one without a spot on a bench and clearly the youngest present.

“How old are you?” The kid was 17.

“What are you in for?” Same as Bob and I were. Smoking pot in public. Same as we are well. We later learned we'd all been caught up in the same “operation”. The cops were looking for crack: none of us could oblige. As I said, we were all just waiting it out.

The interrogation continued. “Where you from?” Canada.

“You don’t look like it.” Venezuela, originally. He was here on vacation. His uncle had already been called to pick him up. Poor kid.

“Who were you puffing with?” Nobody.

“Nobody?” That’s right.

“You puff alone?” The Puerto Ricans took more pity on him for this than for being stuck in a foreign jail on summer break.

“That’s sad, man. You puff alone at home?” Guilty.

“Damn!” This kid was more of an alien to them than the Trojan horse in the corner.

But we two, Bob and I, were more alien to all of them than any of them were to each other. Of that we were certain. And I marveled at how nobody had picked up on it yet. It’s not like Bob and I act gay, but I don’t think either of us look particularly straight either. I guess if it’s not a regular part of your world, you wouldn’t notice. They didn’t. And boy was I grateful.

Bob was first of the two of us to interact with our neighbors-in-crime. I don’t recall the subject of their initial banter, Bob trying more to bridge a gap and pass the time than anything else at that point. And now that everyone else had been drawn into the conversation, I felt it vital to join in before being dragged in.

So when the runt of the Puerto Ricans, still sulking over his situation, started doling out the I-told-you-so’s, provoking his buddies into giving him shit for being such a pansy-assed paranoid, I piped in, “You’re only paranoid ‘til you’re right.”

They asked me to repeat myself, and I did.

They laughed. I was in.

We next compared notes on our respective arrests, our mutual amazement that the cops were now using yellow taxicabs as undercover police cars. We started joking about escaping. We kidded together about worst case scenarios like, what if we were sent up to Central and held overnight? Or worse, what if we pulled real jail time for this, like 30-days from a hard-ass judge who thought she’d teach us a lesson?

That’s when the gay stuff first arose.

We all agreed that three of this group would become someone’s bitches, that being the runt, the kid, and me. Bob consoled me if I was anybody’s bitch I’d be his, which was ironic because in truth it should've been the other way around—but we would have to adapt: he’s the one who can turn on the crazy like a light switch. In no time, Bob would have the bullies offering him gifts just to keep him calm.

“Of course,” I pointed out, “they’d probably never keep us together in the joint. Two friends and codefendants? I don’t think it works that way.”

“Good point,” he shrugged. I felt he didn’t have to agree so fast. It made me wish I hadn’t said anything at all. Jail in itself would be bad enough, but jail without Bob? I’d be fucked, both ways: literal and figurative. Like fucking fish in a fucking barrel.

“Whatever you do,” the alpha said, “if they send you up, don’t let ‘em put you in the queer block. I’ve seen those places and it’s some scary shit, man.”

“I know it.” This was the pudgy, glasses-clad third Puerto Rican. “The last time I was in, there was a gay wedding. Can you believe it? I mean, this is prison, right, and these two fairies are getting hitched. They got, like, toilet paper, tons of it, and they’re streaming it from their bodies like, what do you call it…?”

“Veils,” I offered blandly. Why was I being a part of this?

“Yeah, veils, thanks, and, like, dresses and shit. And they were like…” and he stood up and started prancing around the cell all limp-wristed, lisping wordlessly in a sing-songy whine. His buddies were in stitches. The German-cum-Greek statue glared at them sideways. The Venezuelan-cum-Canadian kid stared down at the brown smudges staining the floor. While Bob and I…

We both smiled, not entirely feigning amusement, and nodded.

What can I say?

The scene devolved from there. Each of the pudgy pal’s chums, the alpha first then the runt, performed their own best pansy impersonations for the cell, cracking up at each other’s close encounters of the queer kind.

This was followed shortly—I should have seen this coming—by each of them in turn proclaiming to us, each other, and high heaven above, their unadulterated straightness, then backing it up with explicit details from their latest female conquests. Afterward, for even commoner ground, they bantered about all the dirty deeds they’d like to perform to the female cop who’d brought them in. I can’t blame them. In my own mind, I was torturing today’s parade of male cops as we spoke.

We all gabbed together this way, Bob and the eses and I, believing we had reached an understanding. And I guess, in a way, we had. That’s probably why, unbeknownst to me, I was starting to develop a small crush on the runt of the pack, whose name—be still my heart—was Angel.

Let's pause here and linger for a moment, can we? To a gay man, a name like that is sheer gold. Angel. Say it with me: Angel. Don’t forget the sigh. And the lilt. Come on now, one last time: Angel.

He was currently bragging about bagging his current babe (his words, not mine). It was a total buzz kill, and yet at the same time a total turn on.

Mercifully the discussion in the cell soon shifted back to less touchy subjects, like real estate. Bob and I gave some well-received advice to the alpha, who planned to finish school in “En Why” then go back to property his father left him in “Pee Are” to start an auto-body shop. An entrepreneur. I was impressed.

As time wore on, the pink elephant in the cell whose elephant-piles only Bob and I could smell was starting to stink to Lady Liberty’s nostrils, which is all to say that it was getting harder as time wore on not to let our renegade sexuality slip. After a while I had to admit to myself that I kind of wanted to. I was sure that at any moment one of us would reach out and touch that electrified third rail, and then only God knew how badly we'd get burned.

The seven of us unlikely compatriots kept each other entertained for the duration of our stay in that steel closet, bullshitting the excruciating seconds away. When the Dexter-ish third Puerto Rican was the first to be let out, we clamored in comradely unison, “What happened to first come, first served?” and, in our best Mafioso impersonations, “As long as one of us is left behind, none of us is free”. We were old pals now. We was tight.

The kid was next to go. A half-hour later, Angel followed. Then finally, after being locked up a full five hours, I too was released. But Bob’s background check wasn’t finished yet, and neither was the alpha’s, still nameless to me and, I was starting to suspect, to Angel too. These guys were more classmates than friends, I was coming to realize, and strangely it endeared me to Angel even more, as though suddenly he was more available.

How ridiculous I can be sometimes.

Angel’s other buddy had already fled the coop, but Angel and the alpha had to find a train or bus still running to Jersey. Poor saps. So Angel and I had to wait for our friends in the cramped waiting area together.

Poor me.

Angel showed me his PlayStation Portable and we huddled together (maybe a little closer in my imagination) to watch some Spiderman 2. We found out where the nearest deli was and asked the desk clerk to tell our friends to wait for us if they came out before we got back. Not quite sure if she’d oblige, we none the less stepped outside into warm summer freedom together. In my fantasy, it was a date.

It was after midnight and most of the storefronts had their bars down. Everywhere I looked, I saw bars—steel rods packed in tight rows covering well-lit, beautiful things. The only businesses open at that hour were drinking establishments: more bars. And then (gracias a Dios) a deli.

“When the other guys get out, we should all go for a few beers together.” That was Angel, not me.

How I quivered when I heard it. Both times in fact, alough the first time, after Bob and I had gotten through explaining to our cellmates how top-shelf tequila was “our beer”, it hadn't been Angel but the alpha who said it. Though from his mouth it went more like, “After this is over we should all go out and get shit-faced. What do you say?” Both times I felt a rude pulsing in my pants. Both times I pushed it out of my mind.

When Angel and I got back to the precinct, microwaved burritos in hand, we watched through the glass doors for a full 20 minutes before entering, neither of us wanting to step foot back in that awful place. But our legs were tired—or his were—and I followed him in.

That’s when I had the pleasure of enlightening Angel as to the true gender of the busty hookers being booked at that moment. “Your buddy is going to have a fit,” were my exact words. I wondered how Bob would react. Probably with the same sort of sadistic glee as me.

“They have separate cells for women, yo,” said Angel.

“That ain’t no woman,” I said, eyebrows climbing.

He didn’t believe me until the demurely disgruntled lady of the evening opened her mouth to speak and the illusion was pulverized (to say the least). Angel’s hand flew to his open mouth like a startled little girl. I laughed, turning my head from the transvestite, more to save me the embarrassment than her. Once more I was ashamed of myself.

But I couldn’t deny the hilarity of the scene as handcuffed cross-dressing hookers, and one I’m sure was what we called then “a Pre-Op,” were one after the other brought in and booked before our eyes. Angel and I were hysterical picturing his buddy squirming as the cell filled up with “he-shes” (again his word, not mine.) I knew that transvestites were, by nature, not typically shy with strangers, and I was pretty sure transvestite prostitutes were even less so. Those girls were keen to fear like panthers and I luxuriated in the thought of our own alpha getting his ass reamed—figuratively speaking (for the most part)—by four chicks with Adam’s apples.

When Bob finally came out 2 1/2 hours later, and we were floating in the warm midnight freedom down Bleeker Street, heading for the nearest Patrón on the rocks with a squeeze of lime (“and keep ‘em coming”) he told me that when the first trannie stalked in the alpha scuttled over to Bob whispering, “Move over, man,” and squeezed in next to him like a lover on the couch.

If he only knew.

But I’m jumping ahead. See, something occurred to me as I sat there in the present glow of my latest unattainable muse. The Puerto Ricans couldn’t hide being Hispanic. The kid couldn’t hide being a kid. The Greek, well, sure he could hide being Greek (or German, whatever he was) but he couldn’t hide being a foreigner here. And the gender-bending hookers, God bless ‘em, they didn’t even bother trying.

While Bob and I: we could hide being gay. And we did.

Now whether that was a good or a bad thing, I was no longer so sure I knew.

It wasn’t simply that straight boys like Angel were unavailable that always got me so hot and stupid over them. Consider the self-hating gay boy I was barely over letting stomp my heart to bits. I’d come to terms a long time ago with my unhealthy attraction to unattainable things. This was worse.

I actually wanted Angel, and so many straight men before him, because he was straight.

Heavens to Betsy, I was a gay-hating gay boy too!

Now I was really ashamed of myself.

As Bob breezed past me, I held out my hand to Angel and without hesitation he shook it.

“See you, man.”

“See you, man.”

“Good meeting you.”

“You too.”

“Take it easy, alright?”

“You know it.”

“And stay away from yellow cabs.”

“Yeah, no shit. You do the same.”

And then, trembling more than I had throughout this entire ordeal, throughout being detained, cuffed and arrested on the streets of New York City in broad daylight, being processed, fingerprinted, photographed, searched and thrown in a holding cell for 5 hours, trembling more than during any of that, I leaned forward and said, “By the way, man, I’m a fag.”

Then I left, without looking back.

I have no clue of Angel’s reaction. Good or bad, I couldn’t bear it. I did the deed. That was enough. I wasn’t yet man enough to stick around for the consequences.

Hey, maybe Angel was a closet case himself, and I just helped a sliver of light get through the crack beneath the door (though I seriously doubt it.) Maybe he was curious, maybe not. Maybe he already had gay friends that his buddies didn’t know about. Maybe they all did (joke’s on me.)

Maybe he was disgusted by my admission. Maybe he was in the bathroom right now scrubbing his palm raw—the one I so fleetingly held in mine—and maybe he noticed that the cheap liquid soap he used was pink and that made him think of fags and, gagging, maybe he couldn’t wash it off fast enough.

Maybe he was behind us right now, prepping to jump us and beat us silly. Maybe he was sitting in the station, dumbstruck, questioning his entire world view.

I wish I could say I’d never get a chance to find out. But we all had the same court date in a month. So I knew I’d see him again.

Meanwhile, out on the sidewalk, Bob was showing me the email address scrawled on his palm and telling me how, after I’d left, the grimacing Greek was giving him signals that we three had more in common than our petty misdemeanors.