It Wasn’t Me He Wanted

Minutes later, I swung my leg over the back of Ted’s motorcycle. He had equipped me with a windbreaker, gloves and the assurance I could hold onto him anywhere but his arms and face.

After giving him directions to an address that was close to where I actually lived, I braced his midriff and prayed. It was a clear night, and watching Boston’s skyline emerge as we drove down Commonwealth Avenue felt big and cinematic, as if it were playing out in a life that wasn’t mine.

Above the wind, Ted said, “I doubt it’s still open but there was this bar around here.”

Before I could say no to what I thought was the suggestion of another drink, he said, “My old company hosted its holiday party at this place I’m thinking of. And there was this man, this beautiful, beautiful boy, a colleague of mine, just about as old as me, who I always — I always presumed. And we were all there and it was fun but, eventually, with some liquid courage, I pulled him aside and asked if he’d like to take a ride on my motorcycle.”

We stopped at a light. Harry’s Bar was on my right, the market where I buy my cigarettes on the left. A familiar stretch of the city I’ve called home suddenly belonging to someone else.

“I took him back home to my apartment,” Ted said. “And I shared my first kiss, my first anything, with a man that night. And my entire life just exploded. This was way before your time and it was all so different. It was the first time I ever realized I could live my life that way, that it was even an option. Thirty-three-and-a-half years. And I saw him to the end.”

Ted pulled his bike over to the curb and cut the engine. We had arrived at the address I’d said was mine. More than at any other point of the night, I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to apologize for having not listened to him more intently, more heartfully. Yet I also felt guilty for possibly leading him on, for listening to him at all.