It should have been a lovely ride. The days was Summer Perfect - sunny, with a few clouds to keep the sun from blazing too bright, like a drunken, boisterous and egotistical uncle kept in check by a few harsh words from his long-suffering, sceptical wife.
There was a breeze and the air was cool and dry. It should have been a lovely ride.
But Young Geoffrey was late and, late, Young Geoffrey was growing grouchy. Streetcars were a frustration; stop-lights an affront. He was on his way to his first (gay) pride parade and was supposed to meet Laura at the Second Cup, somewhere south of Yonge and Bloor.
Young Geoffrey knew that, since being late caused him such stress, he really ought to stop being late - but he had never learned the knack.
He was late for dates, late for work, late getting home; more than once, he'd been late for a job interview. In fact, he had grown so inure to his condition that he had said, during his most recent job interview, that, "Er, punctuality isn't really my strong point. I have a tendency to arrive 5 or 10 minutes late no matter when I wake up, early or late ..." Somehow, he'd got the job anyway.
None of that eliminated the resulting stress, but there he was: late again. He did his best to comfort himself with the knowledge that Laura was travelling with 3 or 4 or 5 of her friends and so hoped the resulting chaos might make them late as well.
But he couldn't know until he arrived.
Young Geoffrey, grown frustrated by the traffic clogging Queen Street, finally struck North at Beverley and was pleased by the progress he was able to make. It wasn't long before he was north of College and turning towards Bay. Up a few more blocks, then east along a sidestreet not far south of Bloor.
He could hear the parade up ahead and the sidestreet itself was getting crowded. Fewer garish costumes and more kids than he had expected, he noticed mostly - and with some disappointment - that even the dykes seemed to be wearing bras nowadays.
He locked his bike to a likely pole and, sweating from his hard ride, he shouldered into the crowd, ignoring the parade he couldn't see for the average-height people blocking his view in favour of attempting to locate the Second Cup at which the rendezvous was to occur.
She told him she'd be wearing her old private school uniform and that one of her friends - a guy - would be in drag. He kept a lecherous eye out for the kilt but didn't see it. At Bloor, he realized he must have missed it and turned back.
Young Geoffrey remembered now just why he eschewed parades, and had for as long as he could remember. There were people in front of him, behind him and on both sides. He muttered foul oaths as he made his way back, like some bitter salmon cursing the rocks that slow him down as he returns to home to spawn. He barely noticed the hard-bodied men in speedos gyrating atop a flat-bed to his left, such was the depth of his misanthropy.
Hot, thirsty and yet with bursting bladder he finally found the Second Cup - an imposing link in that caffeinated chain, occupying the north-east corner of the first intersection south of Bloor, and including a large, over-head sign that read, in large, clear letters: Second Cup.
"You're a fucking idiot," Young Geoffrey mused.
Though there was a young man wearing a top-hat, miniskirt and fishnets accompanied by 3 or 4 young and delightfully slutty-looking young women, he saw no school-girl kilt, no brown girl running forward to throw him a kiss. He lit and smoked a cigarette, tried not to eye the girl in the shortest skirt and finally went into the restaurant for something to drink and to pee.
Meanwhile, there was apparently a parade going on, somewhere beyond the line of bodies, every damned one - or so it seemed - taller than Young Geoffrey himself.
Outside again, he gave up on the parade, kept his eyes open for Laura, only occasionally distracted, when the boy in drag ran to retrieve a balloon for a toddling Chinese kid who seemed to have as much use for the parade itself for the increasingly anxious Young Geoffrey.
He saw her damaged, peroxyded hair first, like a blonde hat atop close-cropped black curls, then her lips painted a red as the worlds purest ruby. She hadn't worn the uniform after all. Instead, her legs were wreathed in fishnetting, her hips swinging inside a tight black skirt, her torso barely draped by a tiny top.
As he began to move towards her he heard a shriek behind him. "There she is! There she is!" And, as he opened his arms to greet her, Young Geoffrey and Laura were surrounded.
He turned, tense and found himself looking at the boy in drag and the girl in a lime bustier that barely kept her covered - yes, the same kids he'd noticed earlier and suddenly he was being introduced around.
And suddenly, for the first time since he'd met Laura, he really felt the age-difference between them. He feared his grin was tense, maybe false, at first, as he listened and watched as Laura and her friends talked in the short-hand of those who know each other well - and who have mostly been drinking.
Somehow, a decision was reached. Laura took him by the hand and they waded into the crowd, getting a view of the parade at last. Which despite the water-gun sprays and the garish costumes interested Young Geoffrey about as much as any other he'd found himself at. But suddenly, that didn't matter. Laura turned and kissed him full on the mouth, her hands bold as city raccoons claiming a dainty from a spilled dumpster.
He was vaguelly aware that, around him, decisions were being made. A swiftly-emptying plastic bottle was making the rounds and the consensus was that more alcohol must be found.
Only briefly, did Young Geoffrey ponder the strangeness: he had had nothing but wholesome fluids this day.
They started north. Laura led Young Geoffrey by the hand most of the time, though sometimes by the cock, when things were crowded enough. Something in the air provided licence and Young Geoffrey fondled back, growing bolder as they slowly wound north toward Bloor.
Christ, he thought, lust can be a sweet, sweet gift.
So much touching, surface kisses and deep, he barely bothered to wonder what her friends thought, or if they were paying attention to his and Laura's display at all.
The liquor store was in the level below the street of an office tower at the corner of Bloor and Yonge.
The 6 of them stopped in front, discussing what it was they wanted - wine? coolers? vodka? Young Geoffrey, feeling not young at all, tried to suggest a quick decision and that he be deputized to make the run. Visions of blue uniforms accusing him of corrupting minors at the liquor store check-out blurred his vision and shivered his timbers.
But it was not to be.
He soon found himself underground, where teenage voices and laughter echoed loud as they made their way to the LCBO. The group split up as members of the little band attempted to decide just what it was they wanted. Somehow, Geoffrey himself made the purchase, to his relief.
They sojourned a while in the food-court, where one of Laura's friends decamped to the facilities to transfer a bottle of vodka into water bottles. Laura and Geoffrey found a corner and necked, until he noticed someone with a stroller and decided that frustration was the better part of valour.
By they time they finally emerged from the neon cavern, the parade was over, the din of the floats receding towards the south.
The decision was made to follow it, in hopes of finding a quiet alley where a joint could be sacrificed and the remaining liquor consumed. Geoffrey suggested Queen's Park - despite - or perhaps because of - Laura's hand in his, and body close, the crowd was getting to him again.
Back at the Second Cup, he thought he'd won the day.
He and Laura walked west, heard Irene telling someone else to come on, "They're going this way!"
But suddenly, they realized, they had lost her friends. No Sara, no Irene, no Jonah, no one but strangers now, and not too many of them.
Laura and Geoffrey laughed, looked around and wondered where they had gone. They tried to follow, to find them, but a circling a block showed no familiar faces.
They gave up and wondered so more, walking close, kissing and carassing one another as if they were alone in the universe. At length, they happened on a phone booth and tried a call. Laura left a message, saying we were in front of the Second Cup and that we'd wait.
They were there another 20 minutes or so. Geoffrey found it hard to estimate the time.
While the crowd dispersed on either side of them, and motorized street-vacuums clanked and roared while sucking up litter, they kissed and fondled like lusty teenagers in a horror movie, oblivious to the world around them. Laura kissed and fondled him without surcease, and though he protested mightily, she ignored his barks and paid attention to his wandering hands and exploring mouth.
But at length, laughing and exhausted and horny, she let him be a minute. "No more," he said through his laughter, "I can't take any more, you're driving me crazy!"
Still no sign of her friends.
They decided to go back to his place, Young Geoffrey pretending he would pick up his bike in the morning.
Somehow, they made it to the subway without either running into a fellow pedestrian or stumbling into the path of an oncoming bus. Young Geoffrey was becoming quite good at kissing and navigating at the same time.
They boarded a train and found themselves against the front door of their car, where they proceeded to continue to ignore all rules of decorum, groping one another with brazen audacity.
After a couple of stops, he heard a woman say something to her seat-mate.
"That's disgusting, isn't it?"
He missed the reply because Laura kissed him harder. He was embarassed but didn't care. He returned the kiss and cupped her ass, as if in defiance. Laura laughed and he laughed with her as they continued their obscene dance.
When at last he knew Dundas West was approaching, he pulled from her and took her by the hand, leading her towards a door, against which they fell, once more in full embrace. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the woman beside them take a couple of steps back, a look of disgust in her eye. The woman on the seat said something to her. Young Geoffrey couldn't hear the words but it was clear he would be winning no popularity awards from that end of the subway car.
... how was yours?</p>
In other news, I saw Laura yesterday, as well. She had been intending to go to Peterborough for the day, but her cat - whom she had given to her sister - was not doing well in the new abode. Aparently, the resident cat had not taken kindly to the interlopper and sis wasn't going to put up with any more fighting. Laura called me early Saturday morning and asked if I'd be willing to take him.
Not what I had been expecting.
At some length, I said that, yes, I'd be willing to take him, on a trial basis. On the one hand, there would be that much more cat-shit to clean up; on the other, I have more than once thought Chet might appreciate some company during those hours when I am away. And, pragmatically, if you have to find someone to take care of one cat when you go away (which I seldom do in any case), it probably wouldn't be that hard to find someone to take care of two.
So ... there we are. I am becoming a fucking cat-man.
And life goes on.
Post-scriptum: One (1) large, invading beetle-like insect fell from the author's over-head light on his desk and was slaughtered, post-haste during the composition of this article. I trust the Buddhists among my Gentle Readers will forgive me.