Everything about the place made it completely unlike the Port Huron I knew. From the fine coffees to the gigantic couches where people were expected to sit and hang out for awhile to the twenty- to thirtysomething single crowd to the vegetarian options on the menu were totally at odds with the drably practical, remote, family-centered carnivorous farmers that surrounded me as a teenager. Part of me was pleased to see that things do change, but another part was fiercely jealous of every twelve- to eighteen-year-old queer person of color growing up in Port Huron now.
We sat there after enjoying our meal chatting and just generally goofing around, when a rough-looking man and two younger guys sat down on a couch situated diagonally from ours. I overheard them for a moment say "meeting" and "sponsor" and from the rest of their highly-charged, awkward conversation could only assume that it was an AA or NA gathering. All three were white and had probably never left Port Huron or at least Michigan in their lives. They ordered a gigantic urn of coffee and between themselves sucked the caffeine down rapidly, as those in recovery tend to do.
At some point, they were all laughing. It was that kind of conspiratorial, I'm-ribbing-you-but-we're-MEN-that-can-take-it-so-I-can-do-that, straight guy laugh. That laugh has always made me uncomfortable, because I assume that something frightening is about to be lobbed my way. At the very least, I assume that something about me - my queerness, for example - is inspiring the laughter. I ended up subtly glancing over to prepare myself for the homophobic barbs that would soon be hurled at us just in time for the older, rough-looking ringleader to catch my eye and then glance at my lap. I thought for a moment about what attracted his gaze: me and Alex holding hands.
A tense moment, and then...
ROUGH-LOOKING ONE: Hey. What do you think of my friend? Do you think he's attractive?
Here it is, here it is, here it is. What do I say? Alex has turned away from them and frozen. I look at his friend who, in all honesty, looks awkward and covers his face behind a weird hat and his body behind ill-fitting clothes. He is not, however, unattractive, so I muster up as much butchness and...
ME: You look fine. (and then to the rough-looking man) Yes, he's attractive.
ROUGH-LOOKING ONE: What about you?
He's looking now at my friend Jenny. What could that mean?
JENNY: Very attractive. You could do something about that sideways basebell cap, though.
The rough-looking one smiles. I can't help but to interpret it as sinister as his gaze turns back to me.
ROUGH-LOOKING ONE: Thank you both. Just taking a little survey. (turning to his friend) See, you'll be able to get girls if you just go up to them and talk to them. You just have to talk to them. You look good.
And that was it. He proceeded to ask all the waitresses the same question; they went back to their conversation, and we went back to ours. Although I had trouble concentrating on talking for a moment as my brain processed the fact that the rough-looking man noticed I was queer and his only thought about it was that it would be a good means of boosting his buddy's self-esteem.
And my fierce jealousy toward all those twelve- to fifteen-year-old queer people of color growing up in Port Huron now pleasantly intensified.
Merry Christmas, everyone.