My forthcoming novel, Kiss Me, Straight, is the story of a gay flight attendant in San Francisco chasing romance with a straight guy all around the world. It is not my autobiography, but they do say to Write What You Know. There are a few scenes in the book that are ripped from the pages of my journal, but the main character, his friends, and their mad adventures are all, of course, figments of my imagination.
So, while my novel is not about me or my life, I do sometimes use fiction to capture a particular travel experience. I am, after all, a Gemini, and we don’t especially like to be bound by narrow interpretations of “facts” when we tell stories. What follows is a snapshot of an afternoon passed on my last international trip before I transferred to Denver. It was originally published on a tiny and now-extinct Gay Flash Fiction site. (photo credit: me)
You know you’re in Asia when an overfed brown-haired white guy in a pair of jeans stands out in a lunchtime crowd. OK, I can admit to having a slight tendency towards overfed brown-haired white guys in jeans, but they’re hardly rare and exotic on the streets of any English-speaking country. And not just the U.S., despite our reputation. (Yes, Australia, I’m talking to you.)
And Hong Kong is packed with Westerners, so it isn’t merely the tender pink patch on the soft underside of his arms or the Western set of his laughing eyes. But he is the only pasty guy I’ve seen all day out of Hot-English-Guy-in-Hong-Kong regulation uniform: the slightly too-thin white dress shirt with the light stripe or checked pattern; the charcoal grey, no-butt trousers; the square black shoes. That’s how all his buddies are dressed, all of them sandy-haired and awkwardly tall for Asia, immediately marked as giant foreigners where at home they’d be lucky to pass for average.
Is it this thicky’s day off? Is he someone’s visiting brother or old school chum? Or⎯more excitingly if less probably⎯one of the skinny guys’ boyfriend, in from London on holiday? Perhaps he works at the same bank but has just arrived in Hong Kong, and because of the extra four inches around his waist, he’s having to wait for Her Majesty’s issued pants to arrive special order. Surely QEII must know a good Hong Kong tailor?
All I know is this: Hong Kong is a frickin’ furnace in August, and my hair, shirt, and crack are all uncomfortably damp. At high noon there’s precious little shade in the concrete kiln they call Central, and my feet, also hot, are killing me. Auntie needs to sit somewhere under a fan and have a giant, sweaty bottle of cold Asian lager and eat about three days’ worth of chicken tikka masala. I’d been scouting for Indian food since the Kowloon side, but with no luck. Plenty of plump Indian tailors to make me a good shirt (“Shazam: you’re a good shirt!”), plenty of lean young Indian men hawking “copy watches,” but no Indian restaurants. So I hopped the Star Ferry to Central, and since then all I’ve seen is a KFC and a coffee shop about every hundred feet. I am ordinarily happy to know there’s a cup of coffee every ten steps in a given layover city, but come on, people, it’s a hundred degrees out here. I’m wilting, and I need someone to point me in the right direction. Soon.
So the light turns, the double-decker trams clatter to a stop, and the pride of cubs – working professionals far from home, but just boys, really – starts to gambol across the street. On impulse, I reach for the thick one; the cute one. He must know that compared to the tangerines in his buddies’ pants, especially on a hot summer day, what he’s got packed into them jeans jiggles like a pair of juicy, sweet, drip-down-yer-chin melons. He’s lucky I grabbed his shoulder.
He turns to me, startled, his coffee-colored eyes not exactly hostile, but wary of this sweat-dripping, shoulder-grabbing maniac. “Excuse me,” I say. It just sort of tumbles out, before I lose my nerve. “But I can tell two things about you by the way you are fillin’ out those jeans: One, you speak English, and two, you know a good lunch special when you see one. Dude, you have got to tell me where I can get a hold of some good Indian food around here.”