Stuart Mackenzie

September 1998

The Bar

My gay friends hound me to go to the bar with them. Like the majority of fags and dykes in our town, they're regulars.

"C'mon, Stuart! You'll have a great time! Besides, you need to relax, after all the shit you've been through lately. We'll buy you a drink..." It sounds tempting. I contemplate going with them, and decline. They are upset, but not really. My loss not theirs.

The words of my Mother haunt me as I walk home after parting ways with my friends. Echoes from post- coming out lectures she's given me. About the gay bar culture. About casual sex. About the immorality of it all. I wish she hadn't made sure I knew she didn't approve of the "seedier" side of homosexual lifestyles. How could I possibly go to the bar with my friends and not feel completely torn with guilt? It angers me that she has done this. All I want to do is have a good time, meet people, talk, and dance I'm not interested in "picking up", or drinking. Not in the slightest. Even though I am clear inside about that, I know that her words won't let me be.

Several weeks later, my Mother has gone on vacation, and we are staying with my Father, who doesn't know I'm a fag. I can stay out till midnight, no questions asked, under his rules. This is my chance.

I am sitting in my friend Annie's room, talking. She lives on her own -- mainly because her family rejected her after coming out. She is allowed to do whatever the hell she wants. Out of nowhere, I say,

"Darling, let's go to the bar!"

"O.K, we were planning on going anyway."

This is it. My bar debut. On a Wednesday night, early. My friends warn me it will be very quiet, but this is reassuring.

I feel paranoid that I will be "carded". Asked for I.D. I am only fifteen, but I look and act much older. I don't look nineteen, though. The bartenders just stare at me, and don't say anything. They have a sort of unwritten agreement with under-agers. If you come on a fairly quiet night, don't cause any trouble, and don't drink, they will pretend they don't know you're there. It works. I think they recognize that the situation is so different for gay teenagers. We're here because we are searching for a piece of community, where we can come and be ourselves. The bar is dimly lit, with red leather seats and tables scattered across the room. There is one main bar. There is also a dance floor, which is closed tonight, it being a Wednesday. Downstairs is a little more personal. A couch, some pool tables, comfy seats. It is dark. The place is a bit of a dive, but cozy. I sit downstairs and talk with my friends. We play pool, drink soda, and listen to the jukebox. It doesn't feel like a bar to me. I get home at midnight so I won't turn into a pumpkin.

A few days later, I go back. This time, though, I can't shake the feeling that my Mother's eyes are burning a hole in the back of my head. I can't get comfortable. A mutual friend is coming on to me, mainly because our mutual friend (Annie) is not present. I am not comfortable with this, although it is flattering. He's much older, but I'm not interested. He walks me to Annie's place, because it is only eleven and I'm not ready to go home to bed. I just don't want to stay at the bar, though.

We arrive at the door, and I hug him. I can tell he's expecting me to make out with him or something. I have absolutely no intention of doing so. Finally, he leaves. Annie's not expecting me. I put my head on her shoulder. Together, we are so secure. I need her reassuring way to keep me stable. She needs me too. Annie walks me home. We sit in the park across the street from my house. It's past midnight, but technically, I'm home.

Looking at the stars with my soul sister is calming. I am able to go home and sleep. I don't think I'll go back to the bar for a while.

Feel free to e-mail me at angooo@hotmail.com

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