“It’s not safe,” I said, doing up the final button on my cotton grey Club Monaco cardigan as we left the bar.
“What’s not safe?” Chord asked, tracing a line across the small of my back with his index finger.
It was two-thirty in the morning and the downtown streets of Winnipeg were barren. The temperature, still unusually warm for this time of year, was hovering around sixteen degrees and thanks to previous frosts, there was not a bug in sight.
For a moment I looked at Chord in disbelief. What’s not safe? Certainly, I thought, there must be at least one dirt road in a small town that you don’t walk on after dark. Having lived in Winnipeg for seventeen years, I knew better than to walk around downtown at night. Even though it is a largely a ghost-town after dusk, once all the nine-to-fivers have returned home, the city’s core is still not the best place for a late-night stroll: especially if you are dressed like a disco ball.
“Have you seen the tight fit of my pants?” I asked him, a touch dramatically. I was trying my best not to kill the mood but the alcohol running through my system was making me less love-struck and more anxious.
Titling his neck back for a better view, he did not hide his excitement when he answered affirmatively.
Screaming like a little girl, I felt my cheeks suddenly turn the same colour as my hair. I had just walked right into a compliment without knowing it and I thought it was fabulous. Taking a necessary moment to smile and jump up and down, I returned to complete seriousness and told him, “What I am trying to say is that, yes my pants are tight, but, paired with this white belt and stunning t-shirt-cardigan combination, they are much too couture for Portage Avenue. In other words, they are not meant to be worn outside the gay bar.”
Not following a word I said, I realized at that moment that he was just as unwilling to give-up his small-town comfort, as I was ready to let go of my big city fear. Relaxing my shoulders, I decided I had two choices: (1) I could carry on being a Nervous Nelly and destroy not only Bambi but also our date or (2) I could take a deep breath, turn us around towards safer waters, and stretch my legs incase I needed to run really fast.
Choosing the latter, I was relieved to reach the Assiniboine River twenty minutes later without becoming the next morning's headline. Taking his hand in mine, there were no more back alleys or dark corners for people to jump out of; just men having sex behind bushes and homeless people sleeping in their shopping carts off to the side. Walking West I gave him a tour of my hometown. I showed him where I used to drink by the river, the bronze statue of some important French guy they named a day in February after, and what the Golden Boy looks like when he is lit up at night.
The Golden Boy and River. Photo by Kyla Roma. Courtesy of www.kylaroma.com“So what are you doing for Thanksgiving Dinner?” I asked, wondering if I would see him again.
“Right now the plan is to sip scotch at my hotel,” he said. “This will be the first time in my life that I will not be with my parents.”
“Then consider this your official invite to dinner.”
“Really?” he said, astonished.
“Absolutely, my parents would love to have you.” And with that, I sealed the deal with a kiss.
What happened next was very Sweet Valley High meets Queer as Folk. Finding a shadier spot on the river bank, the two of us rolled around making-out in the dead leaves like there was no tomorrow. Stopping for air, I pointed out to him the constellations I knew in the night-sky, before he shifted my finger over and showed me the actual ones. We continued this Astronomy lesson for what seemed like hours, until a creepy man on a bicycle showed up and I whispered into his ear, “run, run as fast as you can.”
Back at his hotel, I walked him up to his room, closed the door behind me and will tell you what happened next in Part Three.