This is from Chapter 7 (“A Fun Day”) of my novel, Everywhere She’s Not. It’s the scene where David, the novel’s protagonist, first meets Franklin, the boyfriend of his close friend, Jerald. David is twenty-three years old; Jerald and Franklin are older than he by about ten years. Jerald owns and runs a seaside motel in San Francisco. This takes place in Jerald’s apartment, which is accessible through a door behind the motel’s front counter. The year is 1979.
Across the room, seated at Jerald’s dining table, cradling a coffee mug in his two large hands and reading the newspaper spread open before him, David saw a black man, his hair buzzed on the sides and longer on top, wearing a grandly ornate red-and-blue silk kimono.
“Hello,” he said. “I’m Jerald’s friend David. You must be Franklin.”
“I am!” said the man. He rose from his chair, and opened his long arms wide. “Come in, come in!” Tall and broad-shouldered, Franklin flowed across the room toward him with such assured gracefulness that David had to stop himself from stepping backwards like an awed child. “I am so very glad to meet you!”
“I’m so glad to meet you,” said David. He then had the fairly unique experience of hugging a man exactly his height.
“Man,” said David. “It’s not hard to believe you’re a dancer. You cross a room like Nijinsky taking over Moscow.”
Franklin took a step back, as if to more fully appreciate David’s overall physicality. “Do you dance?”
“Me? No, I just shoehorn the names of famous dancers into conversations whenever I get the chance. It’s charming, don’t you think?”
Franklin boomed out a laugh. “I do! Oh my. Jerald told me that you have a marvelous sense of humor.”
“As you’ll know soon enough, he lied. But his heart’s in the right place.”
Franklin laughed his deep and rich laugh again. “Jerald’s heart is in just the right place, isn’t it?”
“Here, now, let me take your jacket.” After hanging David’s Levi’s jacket in the small closet near the door through which David had entered, Franklin said, “If you’ll have a seat, David, I’ll go get us some coffee and muffins from the kitchen, and then we can sit and chat, and get to know each other a little. Does that sound good to you?”
“It sounds great,” said David.
A few minutes later the two new friends were settled into Jerald’s couch, their coffee and muffins on the shellacked bamboo and glass coffee table before them.
“So,” said Franklin, “Jerald tells me that you’re a writer—and an actor!”
“No, no,” said David. “I like to write, yes. And I did some speech stuff in high school. But I’m afraid that’s it.”
“I could definitely see you as an actor. You have a lot of presence.”
“Only at Christmas—ha-ha. No, I’m kidding. I never get anything for Christmas. Because I have no friends. But that’s really a whole other problem.”
“Oh, my Lord!” Franklin laughed. “So, how long have you been a comedian?”
“Since the day my mother first saw my face, laughed, and said to the doctor, ‘What is this, a joke? Get me one that won’t give me nightmares.’”
While Franklin cracked up, David looked down at his coffee. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m babbling.” Then he looked back up at Franklin. “I’m just happy to meet you, is all. Jerald has so many wonderful things to say about you. And I would say, by the way, that you, too, have a lot of presence, but that would be like saying that the universe is a fairly decent size.”
“Oh, so you’re a flatterer, too.”
“Hardly. When Jerald said you’d been a member of the Harlem Dance Company, it was basically impossible to believe. By the time you had reached me just before we hugged, it was impossible not to believe.”
Franklin reached for his coffee cup. “Well, I don’t know about all of that kindness. But yes, I was with HDC for five years. And then, one day, my knee thought, ‘You know what, Franklin? I think it’s time for you to make a great big change in your life—starting right now!’”
“Yeah, your knee, right? Jerald told me. That must have hurt—literally and otherwise.”
Spreading the thinnest bit of butter on half a muffin, Franklin said, “Oh, it hurt all right. The moment it happened, I knew that it was all over for me, that I was finished. It was really unbearable. My entire life—everything I had, everything I was—was dancing in that company. And then, a simple grand plié one November morning—and pop! It was all gone. Suddenly I could no longer bring what dancing demands.”
“I can’t even imagine. How do you go on from something like that?”
Franklin shrugged. “You go on because you go on—because it is, after all, just a knee. It took me a while to really see it that way—to realize that I hadn’t actually died. But one day just kept on following the next, and somewhere along the line, I found myself wondering, ‘Okay, well. Now what?’” He took a sip of his coffee, and silently returned his cup to the table.
“I’ve never had anything in my life that’s meant to me what dancing has meant to you,” said David. “I’ve never been that committed to any one discipline, and certainly not for as long as you gave yourself to dancing. Dancing was—and largely still is, I believe?—your life. The only thing that’s ever been my life is—what? Trying not to fart in elevators. Endeavoring to not accidentally brush my teeth with Ajax. Not getting hit by a car. My life actually is just not dying—and that’s about it. It’s sad.”
Laughing, Franklin said, “It’s not sad. It sounds to me like you’re just living your life. There’s nothing at all wrong with leading a normal, happy, balanced life. Balance is what I’m after, if I’m being honest.”
“I think that’s what everyone’s after. I think just knowing that’s what you’re after puts you halfway to home.”
Just then Jerald came into the room. “There’s my two favorite guys in the world.” He shut the door behind him. “So, what do you think of my beau, David?”
“I think you must have done something to please God, Jerald.” He crooked a thumb at Franklin. “I mean, look at this guy. I am no longer worried about winning back my ex-girlfriend. You know why? Because now I’m gay, that’s why. That’s how impressive Franklin is.”
Franklin almost spit out his coffee.
“Oh, so you’re gay now, are you?” said Jerald.
“Yes, I am,” said David. “I’m ready to take the gay pledge. And I believe there’s some sort of club T-shirt that one of you now bestows upon me? Along with the secret handshake all gay men know?”
“I am afraid that you have misread some of the literature,” said Franklin. “It’s not exactly a handshake.”
“Also,” said Jerald, “you have to promise to swear off orange juice.”
“I can do that,” said David.
“It’s easier said than done,” said Franklin. “Believe me, the Anita Bryant—which, as a new gay, you should know is made from vodka and apple juice—is not a screwdriver. And I, for one, am in mourning for mimosas.”
“The first mimosa I have once that terrible woman is in her grave,” said Jerald, “I’ll use to toast to the memory of Harvey Milk.”
“Amen,” said Franklin.
A woman stepped into the room through the office door. With her long, jet-black hair pulled back into a ponytail, she wore blue jeans, a black T-shirt, a blue hooded sweatshirt, and a pair of black and white Converse sneakers. Built solidly, she had a pretty, broad face, with skin so smooth a butterfly trying to alight on her cheek was likely to go skidding right off.
She was one of those people David sometimes met with whom he felt immediately comfortable, for no reason he could ever put his finger on or name.
“It’s Erin!” said Jerald.
“What’s going on?” said Erin.
“You’ve arrived at a very important moment,” said Jerald. He pointed to David. “This one here just went from being as straight as a laser beam to being, just like the three of us, gay as a cockatoo.”
“Well, technically, I’m gay like a no cock’ll do,” said Erin.
“Ha!” said Franklin. “Brilliant!”
Erin regarded David. “So you just now turned gay, huh? How’d that happen?”
David pointed at Franklin. “I met him, that’s how. I might have had a chance, if he wasn’t wearing that Confucius At Studio 54 robe. Look at that fabric! What choice did I have?”
David grinned happily while the three people laughed.
“Erin, this is my very good friend David,” said Jerald. “David, this is Erin. She helps me run the motel. She’s been with me since before we opened the place. She watches over the front desk, she does the books, she helps with the rooms—without her I’d be out of business in three days.”
“Two,” said Erin.
David got up from the couch. “It’s nice to meet you,” he said.
“Nice to meet you,” said Erin. As she was shaking his hand, she added, “Fag.”
Once they’d all collected themselves after laughing so hard, Jerald said, “Okay, back to work for me.” Heading for his kitchen, he called, “Anyone want a baked treat before I bring them out front?”
“Already got ours,” said Franklin.
In a moment Jerald was on his way back from the kitchen, holding a big tray piled with muffins. “Okay, you three. Behave yourselves.”
Amazon has the paperback edition of Everywhere She’s Not on sale right now for only $11.78 (regularly price: $16.00). It’s also available as a Kindle book for $9.99. If you buy the novel directly from me (here), I’ll autograph it, inscribe it according to your directions, and ship it out immediately. If, having read the book, you don’t absolutely love it, simply let me know, and I will fully refund your money, no questions asked.