We walked several blocks through the park sipping our drinks and being a bit unruly all the while. When we left the American Legion barroom and started walking, we were still sipping our drinks. They allow open containers in the city, one of the things I love about Savannah. I’d brought my travel mug of rum with me, and I had the chance now to sip on it a bit more. I picked this mug up in Nashville at a conference on environmentalism. The lady at the registration table kept giving me things.
“Would you like a T-shirt?”
“Should I take a T-shirt?” I’d ask.
“Well then give me a T-shirt?a large please.”
We went through everything on the table in this fashion. I left with a free book bag full of stickers, mugs, brochures, and I was wearing my new T-shirt because my old one was so tattered that I was embarrassed to wear it even around a convention hall full of non-profit employees. I drank out of that mug all weekend. I slept in the cafeteria and this mug was mine for bumming around. I’d stolen the bottle of rum that filled it this evening from a party I’d crashed the night before. It was a girl named Mandy’s 21st birthday, and I didn’t get her a present. It was black Castillo.
We walked across the ancient sidewalks past carefully-drafted houses and businesses that made up the thematic lay of the city. We were with an interesting cast of characters. Brett was suave in his black leather vest over a teal green t-shirt. His jeans were as tight as they could be and still be found in the men’s section. His partner, Brent, had his hair gelled up with Bed Head and his shirt scented with a citrus cologne of some sort. After a while walking behind him, I forgot that the scent was associated with him. It blended in with the rich, buttery rum and the hint of brine washing in from the shore a few miles away?the scent of the city. I could hear the waves crashing gently into the sea blending with the hiss and whine of car brakes and the roar of engines pushed too hard for the narrow city streets. The sound, the scent, they were Savannah. They were the sounds and scents of Spanish moss.
Brett and Brent both wrote for the same Savannah alternative weekly. Their friend, Jason, was also along for the stroll. I think he had a thing for Pete. He was a good looking guy with Italian features. He had a strong jaw line and a broken nose that he hadn’t bothered to set. These harsh features were softened by his high cheek bones. His strong brow was hidden by a hound’s-tooth fedora he picked up at the estate sale of some old bebopper. He was in a wife beater that showed off his well-attended physique. One of those muscled arms found its way to Pete’s shoulder every now and again, but I think Pete just thought he was friendly.
We jaywalked across MLK Boulevard and into a side alley. A few blocks down, I saw where we were headed. A rainbow flag flew from a makeshift porch built onto the side entrance of an ancient brick building painted over in white, stained by soot and dirt. The windows were tinted, but I could tell that the curtains were fabulous. Pete had to hang outside with Jason to keep him company while we headed in. It was 21 and up, and I doubt Pete would have enjoyed himself in there anyhow. Not after one drink.
The doorman was a very friendly guy. He was a bit overweight, but attractive enough with his short gelled blond hair and his Club Karma t-shirt. “What have you got in your mug there cutie?” he asked. His eyes were darting between Dave and I, the only ones left in the entryway, the only newcomers.
“Rum. Would you like some?”
“No, thanks. I’ll have to ask you to leave it with me.”
“Oh, well, can I not take it in?”
“No, I’m afraid not. I won’t steal it, you know. It will be here when you get back.”
“Okay, okay.” I didn’t want him to think I didn’t trust him. I handed it over and he grinned at me. He was obviously playing some sort of game with us. The whole situation was rather hilarious, there looking at this odd character in his natural habitat. I imagined him walking down the street as a stranger, wondering what he would say if he were to come upon another stranger like one of us in a public place without any suggestion of his nature or intentions.
“He’s cute. Are you two together?” He looked up at Dave with his eyebrows raised.
“He’s with me.” Dave said. “Three months tonight,” without missing a beat. I could always count on Dave to schmuck out like this when it counts. The guy has a B.S. in bullshit. Neither of us were willing to save a dance for the Club Karma doorman, so one of us had to lay it down. Dave gave me a little peck on the cheek. It’s little things like that let me know he cares.
“Awwww. Well you did good, honey. He’s cute.”
“Thank you,” we both replied in unison. He and I’d hung out so much that the relationship bluff was almost believable.
“Are you guys ready to go?” Brett came back toward the door from the dance floor.
“Already?” I asked, not that I was enjoying myself or anything. They were just playing Elton John. I love Elton John. The place was growing on me, to be quite honest.
“Yeah, this was just a bathroom stop.”
And so we were off once again, traipsing along through the ancient city streets smelling the Spanish moss.