It's late and the leather bar I'm sitting in is at the prescient moment just before the bartender shouts 'Last call!' Just before the lights come up to change the dark, smoky, sexually-charged universe the few remaining men in the bar inhabit. There is the smell of desperation in the air, as these few look around for someone with whom to spend an hour, the night, their lives. Should we go next door to the baths?
An acquaintance sits next to me. I've seen him before, maybe even done him once in the backroom. We chat off and on, as our predatory gazes scan the room. We know nothing about each other, really. That's about to change.
'So what are you gonna do?' I ask.
He fingers the chain and leather harness across his broad chest, glistening with sweat and a matte of dark, going-to-gray chest hair.
He takes a drag off his cigar. Contemplation. 'Dunno. Guess I'll go home and cruise the net.'
'That works for you?'
'Shit, yes. It's like ordering a pizza.'
I recall when we exchanged our HIV statuses at one point; not tonight. He's poz. Makes me wonder: 'So, do you tell these guys about yourself?'
'What do you mean? Top? Bottom? Stats?'
'No. You tell 'em you're poz?'
The bar's hot. Blue smoke hovers near the ceiling. I feel a chill. 'Why not?'
'Hey, I go to bareback sites. If you go to bareback sites, you get what you're looking for. It's not up to me to baby sit these guys.'
'But don't some of them use that old bugaboo:
'Assholes. How fuckin' smart is it to put up an online ad that says you want to take as many loads up your butt as possible and then close it with: Negative. UB2? That always makes me laugh. I always think: not for long.'
'Yeah. It's stupid, but still, why not just tell 'em? I mean, I've seen the sites too and there are plenty of guys out there who don't care whether a guy is poz or neg.'
He ignores my question. 'There was this one guy who put his address in his ad.' He snickers. 'Gave the whole set-up: door unlocked, blindfolded, ass in the air. Come in, drop a load, leave. I did him. And there were guys before and after me. Cute kid, too. It
wasn't until I saw his ad again that I noticed that he had put Negative, UB2. People that stupid, man, deserve whatever they get.'
I look at him for a long time. Notice the ever so slight wasting in his face … could be age, could be HIV.
If you didn't know the difference, you wouldn't be able to say for sure.
'See ya.' I slide from my stool and head out into the August night. It's 4 a.m. 93 degrees. Why do I shiver?