Jimmy Palmer stood behind the solid oak bar and polished the cocktail glasses as he prepared for the night’s rush. He was working part time as a bartender at Oscar’s, a discreet, members-only, gay bar and club in Georgetown, to put himself through medical school.
Oscar’s was a fairly classy establishment, catering to both the closeted and the careful, the elite movers and shakers of Washington, along with the more unknown members of society who needed or wanted the discretion the club provided. As long as they could afford the membership dues and had a connection to a current member for an invite, of course. And of course they had to keep the highest hard and fast rule of the club: Who you see and meet at Oscar’s, you don’t know outside Oscar’s. Discretion - and silence - were the watchword here.
Jimmy had to go through an extensive background check to even get an interview for a job. Then he had to provide five references. Each reference was investigated as well to make sure they were legitimate before he was officially hired. He understood the caution. In the ten months he had been working the bar, he had seen some famous - and very surprising - faces come through the door. To the uninitiated, Oscar’s was an old-fashioned gentleman’s club, harking back to the days of brandy and cigars after dinner, while the women had tea and gossip in another room. Very Victorian. Or even earlier.
Over the months, Jimmy had gotten to know a number of the patrons to some extent. For a few it was simply by their drink order, like the man seated at the table in the back by the billiard room doorway. Jimmy didn’t recognize him as a famous or newsworthy face, but he came in at least three times a week and ordered a gin and tonic with a cherry. He nursed the drink for an hour or so while he read a book, then he ordered two Gibson martinis over the next half hour. When the second was gone, the man ordered an Irish coffee with heavy whip cream from the bar and an order of steak fries from the grill area of the club. He always arrived around four-thirty in the afternoon and left around eight. He never socialized, and he always had a book with him - various hardbacks with leather covers and golden end papers which he read except when he was eating his fries. Once the food arrived, the day's book was put away in his satchel and he took out a mass market paperback, almost always a bodice ripper romance.
Then there was the elderly man who came in every Tuesday and Thursday at six fifteen, like clockwork. He was in his seventies and always sat at the end of the bar and people-watched. He ordered one of three drinks each visit, in rotation: a Guinness, a whiskey sour, and a Sex on the Beach. He always snorted when people questioned the last, telling them in his deep bass voice that he was seventy-four years old and had lived his life by society’s standards. If he wanted to order a more flaming drink now, then he could and they could have their masculine drink orders. He liked the combination and they could shove off and mind their own business. He would end with the fact that it wasn’t like anyone here didn’t know he was gay and trying to conform to a heteronormative society in this, the one truly safe space in the damned city of the devils, was asinine. And while he liked ass, he wasn’t willing to act like one here.
Jimmy loved the different characters who showed up at Oscar’s. They really did run the gamut, from the nearly flaming queens who wore makeup and heels completely unashamedly to the everyday men who just allowed themselves to be open here to the closeted politicians who shed their masks as soon as the door closed behind them and the weight of their true selves was lifted from their shoulders. It gratified the young man to a great degree.
Jimmy himself didn’t like to label people in pretty little boxes. He'd had a girlfriend he truly loved when he was in high school and the sex was good. They broke up before graduation, mutually. In college, Jimmy had two lovers, one male, one female, and again the sex was good with both. He just didn’t feel attracted to people unless he really knew them. He could appreciate an attractive person and realize that they were hot or sexy but unless he was close to them, he just wasn’t really interested. He didn’t care what equipment they had, he was attracted to the people themselves, not the skin they wore. Most people would call him bisexual. He didn't care really. Jimmy felt he knew who he was and that was enough for him. But all the same, he wasn't “out” in the world. He didn’t exactly hide himself but he didn’t advertise either. He felt that unless he wanted in their pants, it wasn’t anyone’s business where he wanted to stick his cock.
And speaking of fun customers, two favorites walked into the bar area as Jimmy stacked the last cleaned and buffed glass. They were regular guys, a couple, Chris and Tony, who came in two or three times a month. Sometimes it was more often and one month - September - he hadn’t seen them at all. He knew their jobs took them out of town sometimes and kept them very busy the rest of the time. But they always just seemed to relax and let go when they came to Oscar’s'. Tony always started the night almost manic and gradually lowered the mask and turned down to mellow and happy. The other, Chris, started out as very quiet and somewhat morose and as Tony calmed down, he turned it up and began to joke and laugh. It was something Jimmy loved to see: the effect Oscar’s had on the men who came to relax.
Chris and Tony always tipped very well and were never snobby and never treated Jimmy like “the help” even though Jimmy could tell that Tony, at least, came from money. It was in the way he wore his suits and interacted with others. Some of the patrons of Oscar’s were assholes and acted like the workers were part of the furniture. Mostly it was the ones who were new to money, but occasionally an old money face would be a complete bastard, as well. But never Tony.
Chris was wonderful as well, kind and considerate. He never failed to ask how school was going. And he really wanted to know. If it wasn’t busy and Jimmy tried to just answer with a brief, “Good, thanks,” Chris would press and press, almost interrogating Jimmy until he got a real answer, not just a polite one.
The two men were so obviously deeply in love with one another. Jimmy envied them but loved to watch them interact. They weren’t sappy or mushy but just radiated the care they had for one another. It was beautiful.