Years ago, I spotted the chubby gay guy, his hairy butt hanging out of leather chaps. He stood on a patch of lawn, bare-chested in a studded harness, sipping a beer. “I want to talk to that guy,” I said. As outcasts at a Halloween party, my husband and I were drawn to a fellow misfit.
Two weeks earlier Mark the scientist sent us an invitation, “Come as a vampire, or in black and white theme.” David and I decked out in his-and-her vampire attire, a black Morticia-style gown and a bloodstained tuxedo. Our faces were painted in rotting shades of green, and we donned sharp, yellow fangs.
Upon arrival at Dr. Mark’s Victorian home in San Francisco, we went green under our grease paint to discover no one else was in costume. Hipsters present choose the black and white theme: black jeans and expensive white tees.
If this were a village, we were the idiots, and that’s when I looked out the window and spotted The Village Person, duded up in black leather biker garb, smoking a cigarette. “Let’s go,” I lisped in my fangs.
Normally, the guy would not be my cup of tea. He was a smoker. But at that moment, I had a wider worldview.
Downstairs Burl seemed fine in his solitude. After all, you don’t sport a hirsute backside if you really worry about what people think. Still, he welcomed us, the shy vampires.
The party was not far from the Castro, San Francisco’s gay neighborhood where Burl lived, and his black leather certainly fit the color scheme. Since the party was made up of our host’s straight medical colleagues, it seemed a bold move.
“Oh, I’m not alone, honey. This place is teeming with queers,” Burl said.
I looked around the garden, filling quickly with straight revelers.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“Oh, please. See that guy over there? Gay. The buff guy who walked in with two ladies? Not fooling anyone. That Norseman? Totally gay but won’t admit it. Now he’s got a lot of potential.”
I said, “No way on the Norseman!”
“Way,” said Burl.
Time passed, beers were downed, and a bright overhead moon gave us a cozy camaraderie that leads to confessions only a stranger can make to another stranger. Burl told us his long time partner had died of AIDS a year ago. Out gushed his fears of illness, loneliness, how hard it is to meet a soul mate. His voice cracked, “Michael was perfect in every way, I could never be that happy again.”
My heart warmed to Burl, a human being cast adrift, and he put his hand on my shoulder, “You two look really happy. You don’t know how lucky you are.”
There we were in the moonlight, two vampires and our bare-bummed buddy in chaps counting our blessings.
Burl was an unexpected personality at the party. Who knew our straight-laced host had such friends? It led me to ask, “So how do you know Mark?”
“Who’s that? I don’t know anybody here. I was walking by the house and crashed the party.”
At that moment, the Norseman made his approach and tipped his shield. “Well, some people know how to dress for a party. Hi, I’m Jim.”
Our new friend brightened and extended his hand first, “I’m Burl.”
David and I gave greetings and took our cue to exit stage left, playing our part in serendipity.