K IS FOR KNACK
www.dictionary.com definition: a specific talent for something
He’s always had a thing for numbers, especially dates. He’s not always the brightest crayon in the box, but give him a day or time to remember, and it sticks to his brain like Velcro. Especially when it comes to his own life.
He was four when he learned to read. He got his first paying job at sixteen, graduated from high school at eighteen, and made it out of college by twenty-two. He got his current job at twenty-eight, and by his mid-thirties, he has everything he could want. Or so he thought.
He doesn’t normally go out to clubs. If he’s going to drink, he prefers either the privacy and comfort of his own home, or a small, out of the way bar where he can be left alone, except for when it’s time to fill his glass. But his friends insist this time. “You’re becoming a hermit,” they say. “You need to find someone, or, Christ, at least get laid. Your shoulders are in your ears.”
So he agrees. They’re his best friends, a gay couple who have been together for eight years. He can remember the exact day they hooked up, since it was he that introduced them. They’re quiet, unobtrusive, the exact type of relationship he’d like to have, if he could just find that special someone who is interested in a life together, in a home, and not just in the quick spark of lust and fantasy.
And so he finds himself in line to get into one of the nicer gay clubs in town. His hand is stamped, his money is taken (he cringes when he realizes that he has to pay ten dollars to even attempt to have the kind of time he could have at home for free), and there he is, being shuffled down a dark corridor towards the dance floor.
“You two won’t leave me,” he says to his friends, yelling to be heard over the music.
“Of course not,” they promise. “It’s early. We’ll find a table, have a few, and maybe you’ll get lucky.”
He snorts in response. He can count on one hand the number of times he’s allowed himself to be picked up in a bar (three), and none of them ended well. By some stroke of luck, they do indeed find a table, though there are only two chairs. He has to smile at the easy way they plop down together on the same chair, one of them happily settled on the other’s lap. He wishes he could have that connection.
They do not exclude him, though, trying to converse with him over the noise that passes for music these days. He can hear them, and soon has them laughing at a story from work that day. His job is exciting enough, especially for someone who doesn’t do it, and he can keep the jokes and anecdotes flowing as quickly and as often as the beer flows from the tap behind the bar.
They decide to take turns buying, even though he thinks of the two of them as one bank account. It’s his turn rather soon; it’s been a long week and they’re all drinking as fast as they talk. He gets up and digs into his pocket for money as he makes a beeline for the bar. He orders three drafts and leans on the bar as he waits for the bartender to pull them. He looks around the room, not really expecting to SEE anything, but it wastes time as he stands there.
His eyes connect on someone, and for one second, breathing is a foreign action, something he actually forgets how to do. The other set of eyes connect with his, and he wonders if he is smiling, since the other man’s face slowly lights up with a shy grin. He swallows the sandpaper in his throat, grabbing one of the beers as soon as it is set down, gulping hard to quench his sudden thirst. The music he had just recently considered as noise pollution now seems the percussion below his pounding heart.
The glass in his hand reminds him of the friends he left at the table, and he gives a half-smile of apology as he picks up the glasses and returns to his table. He wonders if he really feels the man’s stare boring into the back of his head, or if he’s imagining things. “Are you all right?” His friend asks, and he nods, carefully sitting the glasses on the table before taking a chance and turning around.
He wasn’t imagining things. The man’s eyes are still on him, and when their gazes connect again, there’s that anxious smile. He takes a deep breath. He has to know. Has to go. Can’t stop himself from taking those steps through the crowded dance floor. He takes a deep breath and orders his legs to move. They’ve been doing it for thirty-six years or so; why won’t they do it now?
Once he sees the other man start to move as well, it gets a bit easier. As they approach, more of the stranger comes into focus. His body is toned and tight in all the right places. About his height, about his weight. The dark jeans hug the nice legs, and the long sleeved shirt, unbuttoned two buttons, does nothing to hide the ripple of body underneath. The flashing lights of the dance floor move across the man’s face in rainbows of illumination, and as they grow even closer, he is shocked by the blue of the eyes that look him over. He wonders if his eyes are just as curious. He knows he cannot look away from this man, and the phrase “love at first sight” flashes fried-egg quick in his brain.
They face each other, nervous and fidgeting. “Hi,” the stranger says finally.
“Hey,” he replies, wondering where his brain cells have traveled to.
The other man holds out his hand to shake, and when he takes that smooth skin in his, he knows EXACTLY where those brain cells have gone. They’ve traveled south, set up shop, and are currently building one helluva hard, thick wall.
“Would you like to dance?” The man says, and he can only smile and nod.
He was seven when he received his first kiss from a girl. He was thirteen when he received his first kiss from a boy. He had sex with a girl for the first (and only) time at seventeen, and had his true virginity taken at nineteen. He was infatuated at twenty, and suffered his first heartbreak at twenty-one.
He fell hard fast and completely in love at thirty-seven.
END - K