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And with that we agreed to go to Lincoln Road for lunch, and lunch was fine, easy and enjoyable even.
I was able to relax with the moment and be comfortable probably for all of those same reasons I said before. I was at peace with myself, and I had no agenda with Gal. I was easy with it when I said I would go to “lunch” and I was easy with it as “lunch” went down.
I had moved on, and I was moving on still.
And though I missed the continuity that Gal had represented to me for all of those years we were together before, the memories of time shared with my grandparents, my parents, time spent together at my many houses, the good times we had, Kitchi… Gal had been there for all of that, but I still had friends in my life from the same period that shared those memories with me sometimes.
And although Gal was the most intimate memory, the warmest memory, the most involved memory, I had some continuity from others, and so I didn’t feel alone.
I hadn’t lost continuity with my past yet.
My past was still active in my present, and my “present” was filled with activity, warmth, and the promise of more to come. So “lunch” with Gal was not threatening at all this day. As “lunch” was ending, Gal casually asked when I was going back to New York City.
And I answered swiftly:
“Probably late next week as I have some business to take care of, an appointment with the Endocrinologist that I should keep, and a Birthday Party to go to…”
And Gal said:
“What about Ziggy?”
And I said just as fast:
“Ziggy will fly under the seat with me like always.”
And Gal said:
“You could leave Ziggy with me…
I’d be happy to take care of him.
You could leave him with me for weeks if you want to take a long vacation…
And this was from the person who refused to care for the same dog when I wanted a break from life’s responsibility some four years before. This from the person that wouldn’t go to the last moment of his other pet’s life.
Gal said “this” now.
And I haven’t been anywhere without the dog in six years by then. I haven’t been anywhere outside of the United States, not to Canada, not to Mexico, not to Europe, not anywhere.
And Gal is offering to dog sit.
And Gal had always been great with the dogs when committed.
So I replied:
“My plans aren’t firm yet.
I have company coming tomorrow for a few days and I have to see where it all goes with him.
And then I have to firm up my schedule with my clients and the Doctor.
So when I get a handle on it all I’ll give you call, and we’ll see where it all goes then.”
And Gal said:
Just let me know.
I’d really enjoy spending some time with the dog.
I’ll even drive up to Miami and pick him up.”
And ten days later I called Gal with my schedule and made arrangements for him to dog sit Ziggy.
I rue the day I made that call.
I RUE IT!
And there started a pattern of involvement that exists to this day.
It started slowly, gingerly at first. I went to NY for that week and Gal came and got Zig the day before I left. And the day I returned Gal brought Ziggy back to Miami; that pretty much was the schedule for the next three, or four, New York trips over the next six months or so.
And with each trip, the process became more comfortable, comfortable for me, comfortable for the dog, and comfortable for Gal. Of course Gal and I had to become more intimate with each other, more casually conversant certainly, as I couldn’t go a day without knowing how Ziggy was. So I had to call and speak with Gal every day that Ziggy was with him.
Daily I would make that call.
I never asked to speak with Ziggy.
I don’t do things like that, I don’t make those kind of transferences, not ever.
But I did have to get over whatever resistance I had to dealing with Gal on a one to one, daily basis, because Gal was now responsible for that one thing I truly cared about. And Gal had that responsibility often now.
Slowly I started to see Gal more frequently, almost socially. Gal would stay in the upstairs guestroom the night before he took the dog from me, and then he would stay again in the same guestroom on the night before he drove back home to Key West after returning Ziggy to me.
And why not?
It’s a 3 ½ hour drive each way to Key West from Miami, 3 ½ hours in no traffic, and that’s a lot to drive as a round trip in one day, 7 hours in a car, so Gal would stay over one night in each direction.
And soon I had offers to travel on some big trips with a close friend, Johan from Sweden. First Johan came up with a deeply discounted crossing of the Atlantic on the brand new, deluxe, elegant, Queen Mary II, with an additional week to be spent in London. And me, on returning to the US, I was to spend a final week away in New York City, and East Hampton.
I would be away the entire month of June on that trip.
Then we planned a second, deeply discounted, one week, cruise of the Caribbean for that late fall.
And the next year, a third deeply discounted cruise of the Mediterranean came Johan’s way and was booked for the two of us, with an additional three week stay in Italy. I would be away a full month again, only this time it would be mid-July into mid-August, and not mid-late spring into late spring gig.
And Ziggy was happy, as Ziggy simply adored Gal.
And I was free.
For the first time in my life I had that freedom to be just me that I’d never had before. This was that “freedom” that I’d sought some five years before after my father had died, that “freedom” that Gal denied me when Gal said:
“Ziggy is your dog and you will take YOUR dog with you wherever YOU go!”
And now, five years later, Gal had given me that “freedom”.
So I saw a lot of Gal around those trips.
And soon Gal was coming to Miami for weekends whether I was going away on a trip, or not. Gal would come for those weekends and stay in the guestroom for two, three, or four days at a time as work sometimes required his being at the Miami Airport, or U.S. Customs, or at a local manufacturer meeting, and I didn’t care. I had my own stuff going on.
I was busy. I was busy with Brad at first. And then I was busy with Mitch. And then, I was very busy with Mitch. And finally I was very, very, very busy with Mitch.
When I first met Gal some 17 years ago, we became a couple and formed a family revolving around two individuals, their close relatives, their individual needs, their everyday lives, their distant relatives and their families, and of course our pets. Our dogs were our children, the one thing we both agreed on that needed our constant care and attention.
Gal didn’t need my attention, or my care, and Gal told me that often.
I showed Gal little care, and I paid Gal little visible attention.
I cared a lot though, and I paid constant, yet invisible, attention. All of which was shown in the everyday choices I made on the things we did together, like who we would do those everyday things with, the multitude of things I paid for, all of the mundane stuff of daily life that I dealt intrinsically with so that Gal didn’t have to. I paid lots, and lots, and lots of attention, and I gave lots, and lots, and lots of care to Gal. I cared a lot, and I attended a lot, and I did it constantly.
And of course I cared for me too. I “cared” for me, and I “attended” to me well, because If I didn’t “care” and “attend” to me, who the fuck else would?
But the dogs, first Kitchi, and then Ziggy, they needed “attention” and “care”. Just like with children, the animals had survival needs for food, water, and healthcare, and those needs had to be attended to daily. I’m sure that as our emotions for each other (Gal and mine), morphed and changed, that we stayed together as a family for the dogs. We did that just the same way a straight married couple whose affections for each other had waned would stay together as a family for the children.
I’m sure of it.
And I knew it to be a very common circumstance back then, that family “ruse” shit. It could have been the two of us, or a similarly matched heterosexual couple whose feelings had changed, either dynamic, functioning normally as a family together when it was convenient. The two of us, or any other couple whose emotional circumstances had changed, coming together as needed, sharing memories, sharing life, sharing death, yet moving apart, and living mostly separate, and ordinary, every-day lives. Even to the point of sleeping in separate beds, and sometimes in separate rooms, but still together as “family”…
And we did share a life together, Gal and me. We were a family for a good long while. But that life came apart and that family disassembled. It took a long time, but that family came apart, and that common life we had together disassembled.
But here it is, the “now”, today, after some 22 years of on-again/off-again involvement, me with a third dog/child, Freud, and Gal again involved with me, and the dog. Gal is here at my house, for an overnight or longer, two, sometimes three, and sometimes four, weekends a month. Gal is here, in Miami, involved, caring for the animal, and somewhat caring for me, while staying in the guestroom of my current abode.
I wouldn’t have Freud at all if Gal hadn’t flown up to Knoxville, Tn. and picked the nine-week-old puppy up from the breeder. I couldn’t make that trip back then. I could barely walk. If Gal hadn’t gone I wouldn’t have been able to get Freud at all. You can’t ship a Frenchie on an airplane. And with Ziggy dead two weeks, and Mitch dead nine weeks, I had to have something.
I HAD TO HAVE SOMETHING.
And so Gal got on a plane, and the next day I had a puppy, and the day after that Gal went back to Key West.
And that same day I started to train a dog.
But back on this day in late October when we had that lunch, none of that was in play.
Ziggy was healthy and still a stud!
I was healthy.
And I didn’t yet know a “Mitch” existed.
I was just starting the process of reinventing myself for the rest of my life. I was going to Real Estate School to get my license as an agent. I was renovating There, that disaster of a house I had bought after 9/11 and where I now resided with Ziggy. And I was trying to develop a whole new world of friends, and relationships, and family in the city I was just attempting to call home.
There was a real pull back to New York City back then. Like the magnet in a compass pulling the needle up towards north, New York City was always pulling at me to come back. All of my friends were there. All of my memories were there. Brad was there.
I would get laid there.
And all of my life previously had been at that “There”.
But I had decided on a new life, in a new city, and I never wanted to see snow, or be cold again so, Miami.
Miami was now home.
Right after my arrival, Roxanne introduced me to a whole group of legal, medical, financial, and teaching professionals, and some tradespeople. Good thing about the “tradespeople” too as I needed tradespeople to work on the renovations of the house with me. And all of those people were bright, and some of them were gay, and all of them were gay-friendly (as was most of Miami, and all of Miami Beach, very much like Manhattan all of that, very much).
And Antonio was good for a few introductions back then too, nothing substantive there, but a couple of smiles nonetheless, a couple of smiles.
“A couple of smiles…”
And through classmates at the Real Estate School that first month I met some more professionals and professional wannabes. And with it all, and Brad’s visits, I was out a whole lot, busy, and somewhat satisfied with my new life.
I was eating better, drinking less, getting more exercise, losing a little weight (only a little), and I was tan and rested. All in all I looked better than I had in years. And as the Holidays drew close, and Brad went back to NYC after his second December visit to work the pre-holiday week crush, and the manic Holiday week itself (and to not return to Miami until the third weekend in January), I settled down to how I would spend my first Holidays ever away from NYC, and ALONE!
And that concept:
... filled me with some dread. I really didn’t do "alone" well back then, not well at all.
But all of those new contacts and almost friends, many of whom knew each other before me through business and such, pulled together and there were cocktail parties, and dinner parties, and nights out in restaurants, and nights out in bars, and nights out in clubs, and a Christmas Eve Feast, and a Christmas Day Dinner, and soon it was New Year’s Eve.
And some 30 of us decided to be our own mass rolling New Year’s Eve party, first at a pre-midnight bash at a private house party in South Beach, and then as a mass departure and arrival at a small cocktail lounge in South Beach, and then a second mass bolt, and mass entrance, at a large Disco in South Beach, followed by a 4 or 5 a.m. pool party, also in South Beach to finish it all off.
Sounded like a plan to me.
… (Shades of my old life in NYC.) …
In the back of my mind I thought that I could always blow them all off if I got bored and go out by myself. And I did that too. From the pool party I ran to go solo around 5:30 a.m. and took myself to a gay bar in South Beach open 24-hours for the Holiday. And then, finally, at around 7 a.m., I took my very tired self-home.
I wasn’t happy about the “alone” part, I was not happy at all.
I really didn’t do alone well back then.
Not “well” at all…
As our New Year’s Eve party group settled into the small cocktail lounge in South Beach right after we’d left the house part we’d crashed, I was cruised by this really cute guy.
I didn’t pay the “cruise” any attention.
It was way too early to make a decision, and I was with too many people.
An hour later our entire group bolted from the small, scruffy little cocktail lounge we had pretty much over-stuffed with our rolling party group presence, and in six taxis or so we rendezvoused outside of the Hotel whose Disco and patio we were going to invade as the next to last venue of the night. Here we 30 were droplets in a bucket, “little droplets” at that. South Beach was mad with movement and filled to capacity with revelers of every stripe, color, and persuasion.
There was all kinds of noise abounding: laughter, groans, shrieks, yells, loud voices, soft voices, car horns, the growls of bus and truck engines, the squeals of brakes, whistles, bells, sirens, you name it, it was heard. And there was a huge line to enter the club, even though we had pre-paid tickets for 15-minutes we had to stand in line to be admitted to this last Disco Paradise.
And once in, we had to procure cocktails immediately.
We had to get cocktails!
And so to the outdoor patio we went as there were seven bars on the Patio and no real wait to be served. As I got my first drink and settled down near a fountain with a friend to reconnoiter the crowd, and adjust to the music, who was standing next to me but the “cute” guy who had cruised me at the small cocktail lounge we’d just left.
This could get interesting.
And “interesting” it got.
The guy was my kind of hot, 5’ 10”, 150lbs, age somewhere in his early 20’s, with black hair in a trendy doo, long and curly on top, short, almost buzz cut, on the sides, the long top hair frequently falling almost over one eye, not quite, but almost. He would shake his head sometimes to clear his vision.
Cute that shake, “cute”, then and to this day, “cute”.
And then there was his body, he was packed. His muscles sort of rippled through his shirt and pants. I wanted to touch his biceps, his thigh, his butt, he was hot.
He was stylishly dressed in low end, French Express type, jeans and shirt, black leather belt with a large shiny, silver buckle, and black boots I think, or they could have been high top sneakers. I don’t remember the shoes. I wasn’t looking at his shoes.
I don’t remember ever looking that far down.
He’s with this…
Who is this girl?
And if he’s with this “girl” what does he want with me?
Still, it’s early yet, and he’s cute, and he wants to talk.
For over two hours I talked.