I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.
Runtime: 10 minutes and 9 seconds.
His room was empty, save for a queen sized bed, the mattress clinging to the floor, and a single ordinary nightstand. The white nightstand matched the rug and walls. I was surprised at how undecorated the room was, especially considering he’d moved here from Kentucky almost a year ago. The only decoration he had was a name tag sticker slapped onto the beam next to his sliding door closet that faced the bed. It was from a career training program his company put on with middle schoolers. And it was confirmation of some of what we had chatted about over drinks.
We met at the Mix, the first time we’d met up in six months. Eric had thought I wasn’t so interested, so he didn’t push hanging out any further. But he had been mistaken. He came on strong through texting, which made me uncomfortable, but it did not fully diminish my interest. When I spotted him in the bar, he was heads above everyone. I’d forgotten how tall he was. A trait I often find very attractive.
We bar hopped twice until we came to Twin Peaks. Because many consider it to be the first openly gay bar in the nation, the crowd there is mostly veterans of the gay community. Not being of that generation, it hasn’t been on my radar of hang outs. However, I’ve always felt it was a place I needed to try. As I sat and sipped my rum and diet coke, Eric began to rub my leg under the table. I tried to ignore it as best I could, continuing to talk about random things. Two older bears sitting at the table next to us looked on. “Awww, look at the little cubs,” one commented at us. I gave the bear a rudimentary half smile. “You should come back to my place at Twin Peaks and see the wine I’m making and the garden I’ve got in my backyard. It’s just a five minute bus ride.” Eric’s offer was enticing, but I needed a little more convincing to get out of my comfort zone. “C’mon. It will be an adventure.” Adventure was the word that got me.
Inside his dimly lit room, he pulled out what felt like an ancient Dell laptop, which in fact was probably less than ten years old, and asked if I wanted to watch something. “Sure,” I said, indifferently, still taking in his bare bedroom. We both got undressed. He was quicker than I, and began looking for something on Hulu as I pulled off my jeans. Once I climbed into bed, we started kissing. Both of us soon forgot about watching anything.
In the heat of the moment, I climaxed long before and unbeknownst him. My mind had already been wandering, far off from my body’s actions. And now it was completely invested elsewhere. This was not love, I thought. This was physical gratification. Eric continued, not knowing I was miles away at that point. Because our conversations over drinks went well enough, I was uncertain if this was just sex to him. I admit the physical part of it felt good, but I knew I did not want to seek out a relationship with him. So here I found myself, in bed with someone of quality social characteristics, but just not ones that fit well with my own.
He finished and then we lay there together. “You hear that?” he said, as I lay my head on his broad chest. “No, what?” I asked. “It’s my wine. It’s the bubbles.” I lay still and quiet, looking up at the stars through the long, rectangular window over his bed. I heard the popping bubbles coming from his closet, in the big jar he was using to ferment strawberry and raspberry wine.
In the morning I walked home from Twin Peaks. He saw me out, showing me his spectacular view of the downtown skyline from his living room window. We kissed each other goodbye and made loose plans for getting together again. Neither of us made any mention of defining what we were out for.
That evening I took a walk to the Presidio, blowing off plans I had to see friends. I needed some alone time to think. I put in my ipod, listening to a cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” by Norah Jones, a soft and contemplative version of the song that relies heavily on a bluesy electric guitar. As I walked down Lover’s Lane, a sloping diagonal path at the bottom of the Presidio, I pondered what to do next.
Being with Eric did not feel bad, but there was something that just didn’t feel right about it. I’d suddenly realized that the type of intimacy I sought was more social, psychological, and emotional than anything else. It felt great that I had dissipated the hesitancies I had over physical intimacy, which was a huge personal obstacle to overcome. However, it left me feeling sort of empty. Now that that challenge I’d fully invested myself in for so long was over, what mountain was left to climb?
As “Jesus, Etc.” faded out, I heard the birds chirping amongst the trees in the Presidio. I took out my earbuds to listen to them and the howl of the wind through the trees. Gradually, I began to hear something else. In the distance, echoing through the canyon of pines, cypresses, and eucalyptuses, was the sound of a bluegrass band. I moved further into the Presidio, crossing grass valleys, roadways, and old brick Naval barracks that had been converted into offices and homes. I accelerated my steady stroll into a speed walk. “Don’t stop playing. Please don’t stop playing before I get to you.” I said to myself. The music got louder and louder.
Finally, the full power of the speakers ripped through a central grass area in front of the Walt Disney Museum. The bluegrass band was set up on a small stage next to a huge screen that looked to be used for a movie showing. There were four band members, one on stand up bass, one on guitar, one on banjo, and one on fiddle. They played a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Hard to Love”. The man on stand up bass sang. “The blackest crow that ever flew, will never turn to white. If you will prove your love to me, I’d turn my day to night. Well, it’s hard to love and not be loved. It’s hard to please your mind. When you’ve broken the heart of many a poor boy. But you’ll never break this heart of mine.”
The crowd, mixed of kids and their parents, applauded at the end of the song. “Wish we could say we wrote that one,” the man on stand up bass admitted.