I was waiting at West Portal light rail station in San Francisco for my friend Clive to pick me up. He’d invited me to a house party in Redwood City, California. I needed to get away from Toronto, so I booked the trip at the last minute. It seemed like the perfect place to get some perspective. I was searching for some sort of solidarity with strangers;I was still feeling dispossessed back home. It was very nice of Clive to include me, considering we’d never met in-person. “It should be fun,” he texted me. “It’s just going to a bunch of bears.”
Clive and I had met on Scruff when he was in Toronto on business. We were supposed to have a threesome with DH, back when we were doing that sort of thing. The threesome never happened; coordinating one can get very, very complicated. But I found Clive extremely attractive, so we added each other to Facebook and kept in touch.
When he finally picked me up from the station, we talked like we’d known each other for years — and in a way, we did. I described my flight; the six-hour layover in LA, and the horrible landing in San Francisco due to a windstorm. Seeing him in person, I thought about how much more handsome he was than any photo gave him credit for: he was rugged and confident, like he’d already lived a dozen lives. He was fifteen years older than me, but I wouldn’t call him a “daddy.” He had referred to himself as a “bear,” but the more I looked at him the more I thought that he was a lion. I guess that made me the wolf.
We drove back to his house and picked up his husband, Blair, who had needed extra time to get ready. I wondered if Blair was a bear. Maybe a muscle bear? He was a hyper-masculine creature with big arms, a shaved head and a biker beard; the sort of guy you wouldn’t dare stare at too long in public because it might get you a black eye. I finally concluded that he was a gorilla.
“You’re a writer?” he asked. He had done some writing himself when he worked in advertising years ago, but jumped to landscaping; a profession that authenticated his look. As we talked, I wondered what he thought about me being there with them — a complete stranger — going to a party with all of their friends. Did this happen often, or did Blair not know that Clive and I had just met? Did they want people at the party to know?
The party was in a house in the mountains with a view of Redwood City down below. Toronto seemed a world away. I was finally starting to relax.
Clive led me through the house, keeping me close to his side. We passed all types of animals socializing: there was a polar bear and a panda in the kitchen, a muscle cub by the food, and an otter couple warming themselves by a fire in the living room.
I grabbed a beer and observed the menagerie. Most of them were embracing as they conversed in clusters, limbs interlocked. Touch seemed their preferred method of communication. I was fascinated by their actions and somewhat envious that I didn’t speak their language.
After an hour of mingling, Clive introduced me to his friend Billy (a bear, no question) who kept telling me how adorable he thought I was. He began fingering everyone’s belly buttons because he wanted to know who was an “innie” or an “outie.” I wasn’t sure how or why we were playing this game, but I knew that I needed to drink faster and catch up with the group. Why stop at the belly button, I thought? . . .