The first time I walked into Dieter's apartment I took one glance around and felt tears sting in my eyes. The sadness hit me like a ton of bricks. Was that a ... fake flower arrangement on the sideboard? A hanging rattan lamp? And there on the Bombay Company coffee table, was that a Tom Bianchi photo book?
My head spun so fast I expected kids to ask me for rides. I ran into the kitchen. "I ... I need a drink!" I sputtered to a mystified Dieter. I threw open a cabinet and froze in horror at its contents. Ferrer Roche candy, peach-flavored green tea bags, and a kitchen timer shaped like a goose. My body tried to register its shock but the guttural cry froze in my throat. What kind of person could live like this? I wondered. What godforsaken melange of horrific taste and disposable income could drive them to buy these things?
I concentrated on my happy place. This isn't so bad, I thought, and then my eyes settled on a painting of a naked male torso with highlights lavishly brushed in gold.
I ran for the foyer as a clueless Dieter followed. "So, how do you like the place?" he asked.
The immediate response in my head was, "Ohmigod, you poor, poor thing!" but aloud I said "It's terrific! It is really, really great!" And it was, I recognized. Not his apartment: folks from Ethiopia would have said, "You know what? We'll just live in this pile of mud, thanks." But his courage. His bravery. His strength in the face of such a paralyzing disability. I was privileged to live in a world with Vermeers and Manets and didn't realize that to some gay men it's not really art unless there's a penis in it.
I pulled his body close to mine, throwing my arms tight around him. We hugged as I mentally applauded him for his bravery. We kissed, then kissed some more. The affection turned to desire as shirts were slipped off and pants unbuttoned. Seconds away from abandoning all thoughts to pleasure I noticed one side of his underwear was green, one side was blue, and the middle was orange.
"Oh HELL no," I said aloud as I grabbed my shirt and stormed out. I blindly staggered down the darkened street repeating: No. No. No. NO! I mean sure, I had vast reservoirs of empathy and compassion, but at some point even Doctors Without Borders are going to say, "Oh, I have just fucking had enough."