April 1999

***This is sort of a narrative, but this guy honestly foiled all attempts to get a definite answer to the sexuality question. I'd be interested in other people's takes on this. (Most names have been changed to protect the cute . . . err, innocent.)***

During high school, it was standard operating procedure to spend at least five hours a week at the local Denny's. While I firmly believe that Denny's is a great American institution, I now think that the hours spent there were a little excessive. It was fun though. The regulars, a status everyone was aiming for, were recognized by all and known by name by the staff. My best friend (at the time), Sarah, had her eye on a very specific regular who she pointed him out to me.

He was eighteen or so and seemed the embodiment of the slacker generation. His bleach-blonde hair was cut to just below ear-level. Overall, his features were pleasant and balanced. His nose was, perhaps, a little too angular; his mouth, a little too small. Dark brown, his eyes and eyebrows confirmed what we'd already guessed about his real hair color. In contrast to his pale long fingers, his complexion was slightly yellow and brought the word 'Saffron' to mind though I'm not absolutely certain what shade saffron is.

Sarah was obsessed. Though I studied him thoroughly as soon as I saw him, I was drawn (ala Ally McBeal's John Cage) to the guy sitting with him.

His body was much lankier than his compact counterpart. Brown curly hair spewed haphazardly from his head. Brown eyes blinked from behind small oval- framed glasses. As I watched, he grinned a quick, easy grin to his blonde booth-mate.

Usually, when Sarah made an impulsive decision, which incorrectly suggests that some of her decisions were thought out, I was dragged along, kicking and screaming. This time, when she said "Let's introduce ourselves." I was all for it. I wanted to meet this brown-haired guy and find out what his story was.

We walked over and introduced ourselves. Sarah's guy gave his name, Jonah, and that of his friend, Matt. Ever-friendly, Jonah invited us to sit down. As he and Sarah gabbed, Matt and I sat quietly and watched. When it became clear that neither of us had anything relevant to add to the conversation, I turned and said to him "So. . ." I know, really intelligent. That's me - knocking them dead with my conversational skills. Matt just smiled. He held it for a second, then turned back to watching Jonah and Sarah.

Jonah was, indeed, 18 and Matt was 22. Both had gone to the same high school, a few towns over from this Denny's. They hadn't known each other in high school but, since they'd graduated, had recently met and started to come to Denny's every night. Every day was the same for them. They'd wake up in the afternoon. They'd hang out for awhile in the evening and then Mike would drive the license-less Jonah to Denny's around 9 p.m. They'd stay, drinking coffee and talking to people, until 3 or 4 a.m.

Around 2:30 a.m., Sarah decided not to wear out our welcome. With casual good-byes, we headed home.

From then on, nearly every weekend (and some weekdays) ended with a few hours with Jonah and Matt at Denny's. Somewhere along the line Jonah and Sarah started dating. I simply learned more about the two.

I really identified with their friendship. It reminded me of Sarah and myself, but with a role reversal. Sarah and Jonah were a lot alike, outgoing with a touch of low self-esteem. Both were, in their way, attractive. Matt, naturally quiet, seemed to follow Jonah's lead on most things. I'd been accused of doing the same with Sarah. The one difference? Jonah was the jobless license-less wonder of his duo, I in mine.

One night, we went bowling and Matt brought a 'friend' along. Her name was Devon and she was . . . odd. Slightly overweight, hostile and cynical, Devon should have gotten along with me perfectly. But I didn't like her. I wanted to quietly watch Matt and try to draw him into conversation instead of listening to him talk sullenly with Devon. On our way to Denny's, Devon and Matt got in a fight and Devon went home. Matt didn't tell us what they'd fought about until we'd been seated for about an hour.

"I can't believe her," he exploded, even getting Jonah's attention. We all asked what he meant.

"She got mad about something, god only knows what. I guess she thought we were ignoring her. Anyway, she told everybody from our high school that . . . umm, that Jonah and I are . . .you know, together." Jonah and Sarah started to laugh at the very prospect.

"Can you believe it?" he said, alternately looking at the table and Jonah. "Me and Jonah, like that's realistic." Something, I don't know what, suddenly clued me in. Maybe it was the way he looked up and quickly back down. Maybe it was his tone, a tone that begged the statement to be contradicted by Jonah. Maybe it was the way his eyes just looked happy when he was looking at Jonah. Any way you cut it, I was suddenly sure that this 'rumor' was in fact the reality that Matt wished for. I just stared for a second and explanation for why he happily hauled Jonah's butt everywhere and why his other friend was a Janeane Garafolo type (no offense intended to those of us that enjoy being this type

I promptly gave my self a mental THWAP for thinking along these ever-so heterosexist lines. None of these things added up to homosexuality. And, this guy had not set off my frighteningly accurate gaydar at any point. So, I had to be wrong. . . right? But what if I just really wanted to be wrong because I really wanted Matt? Quite a dilemma.

I started watching the two interact. Matt did seem to take an adoring sort of stance with Jonah, like everything he did or said was absolutely perfect. When a guy hit on Jonah without Jonah realizing it, Matt laughed harder than anyone, saying things like "I can't believe you didn't know." and "So you going to take him up on it?"

One night, following a birthday celebration for the illustrious David Wycislak (Hey, bud!) Matt was playfully applying a coat of blue nailpolish, one of David's gifts, to his own nails. Everyone else had scattered to other tables to talk to people. I decided to . . . well, pop the question.

"Can I ask you a question," I said, nonchalantly. He looked up and gave me a sweet smile, like he already knew what I was going to say.

"Umm, are. . ." I paused before blurting out "Are you gay?" He smiled this wise enigmatic smile and laughed.

"Why would you ask that?" he asked, still smiling.

"I don't know. It's just. Watching you with Jonah, I have to wonder if . . ." I trailed off.

"Ah," he said. That was it. "Ah". Totally uninflected. Said with a bit of a smile. He went back to painting his nails.

Shortly thereafter, Jonah and Sarah had a falling out. The subject? Don't know. Don't care. I ran into Matt and Jonah about a month later but had very little to say.

Near the end of February, my ex-boyf and I saw the two at Denny's. They sat with us and, as usual, Jonah and my ex took off on some conversation that Matt and I had no need to participate in. I still felt a pull from Mike and decided to try an It's-Pat-esque stunt. When a total hottie came into Denny's, I stared more than usual.

Matt finally took the bait and said, "What are you looking at?" I discreetly pointed the guy out. Matt looked at me with one eyebrow arched.

"The one with the eyeliner, mascara and lip ring?" he asked. I nodded enthusiastically (please, even Wonder bread kind of people yearn for pumpernickel now and then.) before asking him what he thought. Yes, moment of truth. If he started critiquing the guys clothes or agreed on his cutitude, I could put another point on the 'gay' side. Matt looked at me, eyes narrowed, as though he could see my thought processes.

"I don't know," he said, grinning. "If that's your thing. . ." I glared at him. That, like Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, could go either way. Rats, foiled again. Matt just smiled before turning back to Jonah.


Julie is currently a 19-year-old het sophomore at a small university in Illinois. In her next incarnation, she's coming as Ryan Phillipe's jeans or Kevin Williamson's computer. Don't ask. Though notorious for her slow-as- molasses responses, Julie loves to get e-mail at MazzyMae@aol.com.

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