Kyle dragged me to the Magnitude Dance Stage on 11th Street. There was a much bigger crowd dancing here, but it was a circuit vibe, which wasn’t really my thing. The music also wasn’t as eclectic as the Deviant stage. Despite the music, the crowd had the same happy-go-lucky, horny feeling as the rest of the fair, and there was a a line of leather clad go-go dancers on risers down the middle of the road, poking up from the crowd.
We found Phil dancing with his boyfriend halfway up the street. When he noticed us, he came up and gave me a hug. He looked like such a daddy in the daylight: topless, wide-chested and with a bed of grey chest hair that you could lose yourself in. He was wearing a New York Yankees fitted cap pushed a little to the side and dark framed glasses; he looked far more hip than myself. I rested my shoulder on his chest while we chatted, pretending I was just getting closer to hear him over the music. I felt this strange comfort by his presence. It wasn’t a sexual attraction — I didn’t find him that attractive at Beatbox — but there was something kinetic between us (and it wasn’t just his hairy chest).
His boyfriend came over and engaged him in another dance, but Phil kept looking over at me and smiling, like he wanted me to do something. The smile was filled with so much guilt — I knew that feeling. It’s strange to think that sexual attraction can lead to shame, that an unexpected desire could make you feel dishonest. You have a partner, we’re told, and so you shouldn’t want more. But what if you honestly don’t want to be responsible for your urges? Can you still form a partnership by stating this truth?
After a few tracks, Phil offered to buy us drinks, so I went along with him back to where the beer stand was on Folsom Street. It was only then that I noticed how drunk I was, as I quickly lost him in the crowd. When we found each other again, he smiled. “There you are,” he said. We continued to the line and he proceeded to tell me how attractive he thought I was. He said he still traveled to Toronto often and hoped we could hang out during his next visit. I could see a fear in eyes, past the smile and even past the guilt.
I found it interesting that we were at the same crossroad. “You know, I have a boyfriend back in Toronto,” I said.
“Yeah. We’ve been fighting for a few weeks now, but we’ve only been seeing each other for three months. That’s why he didn’t come. I needed time away.”
“Three months and you guys are fighting?”
“Yeah. Who knows what will happen when I get back. I just don’t want anything conventional.” I paused. “Yeah, that’s what I’m going to say to him.”
“So you don’t want a boyfriend?” He seemed confused.
“Not traditionally, no. And I don’t want to feel guilt about not wanting a boyfriend. Guilt is the worst. I just want a partner, but I’m not just talking about an open relationship.”
He didn’t say anything to that, so I wasn’t sure whether he understood what I was saying. Hell, I was still trying to understand what I was saying. He shrugged his shoulders and we brought the drinks over to the group. Phil handed one to his boyfriend, and they started dancing and kissing again like two love birds. Maybe he decided to make an effort because, like me, he’d come to this place far too many times to fail again. Once they finished their drinks, he said he was going to take his boyfriend back to the hotel. “Already?” Kyle said.
“Yes, already,” Phil replied.
And that’s where we diverged — he left me at the crossroad.
“Once he drops his boyfriend off, he’ll be back,” Kyle said. But he never came back.
I think it’s fair to say that, when it comes to relationships, I don’t know what I want yet. At the very least, I can say what I don’t want: I don’t want the norm, or the feeling of guilt for not wanting the norm. I don’t want rules to inhibit me. I don’t want to make decisions based off of fear — to be scared straight, so to speak. And most of all, I don’t want to become yet another Phil.