Taken by the piano man on October 16, 2010.AND SO IT BEGINS
I met Horace in an online chat room in January of 2009. He had a greeting in his profile that said “I’m boring”. I found this rather humorous and sent him a private message asking “what makes you so boring?”
I don’t recall the exact explanation but I told him that it didn’t compare to my “boringness”. I was living in the suburbs of Boston at the time but wanting to eventually get back to Los Angeles. My life consisted mostly of going to work, coming home, eating, going to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, futzing around for a couple of hours and then attempting to steal another hour of sleep before having to get up for work.
On weekends when I didn’t go down to Providence to see friends, I would pick up a fried shrimp dinner with French fries and a vanilla shake from Rick’s Restaurant on my way home from work on a Friday night and then emerge from my apartment Monday morning to go to work. Some people called this depression, but it was really just a Great Sadness – a downgrade from my actual Great Depression of 2006.
Horace’s response was “That’s pretty boring”.
Our initial e-conversation was quite lengthy. I found out that he was a classically-trained pianist. He taught at a music school but also offered private lessons out of his home. He told me that he was just a few months out of a long-term relationship that ended badly. He admitted that he wasn’t really looking to chat with anyone in the room let alone meet up with them.
For some reason he not only agreed to a face-to-face with me but offered to take the train from Boston to my apartment.
HERE WE ARE, FACE TO FACE
It was a Saturday night. I picked Horace up at the train station in the center of town. Though I had an idea as to what he looked like from his picture, I had been hoodwinked many times from people whose pictures were vastly different from the reality. Some people go as far as to present George Clooney but show up as Christopher Walken.
I have nothing against Christopher Walken, but it’s just about setting the expectation. If I was meeting up with Christopher Walken, then I would expect to see Christopher Walken. However, if someone is presenting themselves as Clooney, then they sure as hell had better show up as Clooney. I didn’t go around sending pics of Taye Diggs and calling him Terrence Moss.
After a few Clooney/Walken close calls at the train station, Horace rounded the corner and noticed my dark blue Toyota in the lot with the rather pleased non-Taye Diggs smiling at him.
We ate dinner at my apartment that night and chatted for a bit. As a big fan of obscure B-movies, he brought Freeway, a 1996 effort starring Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland.
Horace and I got about halfway through the movie before catching eyes. And then he kissed me.
I don’t remember the rest of the movie.
Horace and I finished “dessert” in my bedroom, where we eventually fell asleep. I knew he had to be home by 9am for his first lesson of the day at 9:30. I set the alarm for 7am so that he wouldn’t have to rush. Being a Sunday morning, I hadn’t realized that the first train wouldn’t leave town for another three hours so I gladly offered to drive him home – not that I had a choice but it would at least give me another 45 minutes with him.
Being January in New England, it was SNOWING when we walked outside. This wasn’t just a cute snow, either. This was full-on snow that sticks to everything. This was the snow that the plows can barely keep up with. This being his livelihood, I knew he needed to get back home.What would have been a 45-minute trek to Boston took twice as long but I got him to his destination.
I made the 90-minute return trek back home and looked forward to speaking with him again that night.
THE FIRST DATE
For some reason, Horace agreed to an actual first date. I sound surprised because first dates for me are rare. Second dates are almost miraculous.
I have a couple of theories for this. One is that I am far too accessible. I’m an open book. What you see is what you get. I am what I am. There are no walls. There are no mysteries. I operate like a television series. My basic premise is established on the first date. Every subsequent meeting is just another episode of the show.
From what I can ascertain, a lot of guys are not interested in tuning in and that is fine, but despite his previous relationship, Horace not only seemed interested in tuning in but joining the cast – even if in a recurring role.
Our first date was on a Friday night. I got off work in Marlboro (about 30 miles west of the city) at 5:30 and drove into Boston. Since it was Casual Friday at work, I considered myself having dressed up for the occasion in tan khakis and a white long-sleeved shirt with muted blue and gray stripes. It was one of my favorite shirts.
Because I ALWAYS wore jeans on those days unless I was meeting with a client, I had to field a lot of questions about why I was so “dressed up”. The more people I told of my plans for the evening, the more imperative it was that the evening went well since I would be grilled about it on Monday morning.
While making my way east on the Mass Pike, my nerves started getting the best of me and I called my friend Charles at work to talk me off the ledge.
“You’ll be fine,” he reassured me. “Just do and say the exact opposite of what comes naturally so that this won’t be your last date with him.”
Charles stayed on the phone with me through the remainder of the drive into Boston. He wished me luck and we hung up the phone so I could find a legal parking spot.
There was an oxymoronic warm chill in the air as I stepped out of the car, put on my coat and made my way to his apartment. This being an extremely rare actual date with anyone, I was a bit nervous and hoping for a few moments to get my head together. It was very quiet outside and I wasn’t expecting to run into anyone but there he was – waiting outside his apartment building sitting next to one of the stoop banisters smoking a cigarette.
In the past, smoking had been a deal breaker but Horace didn’t smell of it and since I found him so unbelievably cute, it would have been silly of me to let such a minor grievance come in the way of a potentially wonderful (or heart-rending) chance at love, affection or just the occasional “dessert”.
There wasn’t much of an exchange of pleasantries let alone a hug and even less by way of a smile upon seeing each other. Perhaps he was also nervous -- which I of course didn’t think of until this writing. Or maybe he sensed that I was really trying hard not to say or do anything stupid within the first five minutes of the date and it read on my face as a façade.
We went to Sibling Rivalry, a restaurant owned by two brothers -- both chefs -- who each created their own menus with which to compete for the attention of their clientele.
Our reservation was at 8. We were seated a few minutes past the hour between two middle-aged couples. Even though Sibling Rivalry was situated in the rather gay-centric South End, I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought about dining next to two men who were clearly on a date.
The waiter was delightfully pleasant and, as evidenced by the progressive widening of his eyes while he described that evening’s dinner specials, very enthusiastic about food. I owe this waiter a debt of gratitude as he provided Horace and I with a welcome ice-breaking chuckle that helped calm my nerves so that I could focus on the evening instead of how not to ruin it.
After a dinner conversation mercifully free of awkward pauses, we left Sibling Rivalry. I feared that he was going to opt to end the date right there and head home while I headed back to Franklin. Instead, he started showing me around the South End and Back Bay areas of Boston.
We walked through street after street of quaint colonials, multi-level Brownstones and former single-family homes. From there we strolled through a corridor that connected two malls. At this point, Horace needed to visit the facilities. We found one on an upper floor. While he set off silently to answer nature’s call, I was stricken with a sudden panic that I had said or done something to turn him off. I envisioned him in the restroom calling a friend of his to orchestrate some sort of excuse to cut the evening short. I replayed all of the events of the evening in my head to pinpoint the exact moment things started to curdle. Though I came up with nothing, that didn’t stop me from formulating a speech in my head that would explain myself and keep the evening going as long as it possibly could.
A few agonizing minutes later, Horace came out and joined me at the ledge overlooking the passersby below. He must have read something in my face because a few moments later, he reached his arm around my lower back and stepped forward to give me a kiss. Then the evening continued.
He led me down one street where he revealed his knowledge of and interest in New England architecture. Though he kept stopping out for fear of boring me, I kept encouraging him to continue. Not only was I impressed at this unexpected aptitude, I was completely enthralled by what I was learning and trying very hard not to fall head over heels so soon.
Being the end of January in New England, the temperature had fallen to time-for-a-hot-tea levels about an hour or so into the walking tour. Horace and I stopped off at a bookstore to warm up. We each ordered a hot tea and shared a second dessert of New York-style cheesecake. While we were sitting, I noticed how the light was hitting Horace. For me, it accentuated his already handsome looks and I had to capture it on camera.
“I don’t take great pictures,” he warned me.
I refused to believe that I couldn’t capture some reasonable semblance of Horace even with my cheapie Sprint camera phone. I spent twenty minutes trying to replicate what I was seeing sitting across from me at the table only to find out that Horace was more or less correct. Regardless, I was making one of those pics the wallpaper on that cheapie Sprint cell phone.
When we were finished, Horace and I got up to browse the bookstore. We were standing in the Biography section when Horace once again reached his arm around my lower back, pulled me in closer to him and gave me another kiss.
“Excuse me,” said one of the bookstore clerks rather emphatically. “We are CLOSING.”
I looked away in embarrassment though I was smiling to myself. I looked at my watch. It was ten minutes to midnight. Though it was tempting to defiantly continue making out, we opted instead to leave. As we left, Horace noticed the mirror behind us. I had seen it earlier but had no intention of interrupting that kiss under any circumstance.
Horace and I continued walking throughout the South End. About a few blocks from his apartment he asked me if there was anyplace else I’d like to go. It was after midnight so in the back of my mind I said, “Yes…your apartment.”
He either heard what my mind was saying or read the electronic message scrolling across my forehead that said “take me to your apartment” because at that moment he told me he wasn’t ready to have to explain me to his roommate. I didn’t like it. I didn’t get it. But I couldn’t argue it.
It was getting colder so we decided to get into my car, warm up and drive around for a bit before parting ways for the evening. For two people who on paper have very little in common, I was amazed at how much we had to talk about. I was even more amazed by the fact that “for a bit” turned into a two-hour extension of the date by the time our driving tour of Boston ended outside his apartment. We were able to sit in my car for another half-hour in the one-way turnabout before another car pulled up to officially put an end to the night’s festivities. Horace leaned over, gave me a kiss and said goodnight. I watched him as he got out of my car and walked up the stairs leading up to his building.
I then pulled off and drove the forty-five minutes back to my apartment in Franklin.
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