July 23rd, 2001
Today I was thinking that maybe I shouldn't really consider moving to Laguna Beach because then where would I have to go on Sundays to have adventures? Would Laguna become commonplace once I called it home? Somehow, today made me realize that nothing about Laguna Beach is ever going to be commonplace for me. I don't go to Laguna looking for trouble. I swear I don't.
Anyway, it was a little strange to be walking on the beach this morning and feeling like it was colder than many of the days when I'd walked there this past winter. I'd gone dressed for summer warmth and found myself shivering at the thoughts of the water even touching my bare toes. A few weeks ago, in anticipation of summer, I bought a pair of DKNY shamelessly-sheer, white linen shorts - you know the kind, long down to well below the knees and that barely hang off my butt. (Thank god it's still round enough to hold them up! Though barely.)
And of course it would be uncharacteristic of me to wear underwear, so I wasn't. I topped the shorts off with a blue t-shirt that is cut off short enough to show a still showable piece of my belly. Hey, it's summer. So I'm walking down the beach and I get to a place where you have to go through an archway in a rocky promontory to get to the beach on the other side of it, when I realize that the tide is high.
OK, I know you know where this is going but hang with me here - it's worse than you think.
So I'm stepping on the rocks under the water trying hard not to get myself wet, for two obvious reasons. First of course, the water is cold and I'm a whimp. Second, and most important, is that I'm looking down at these shorts and I know it's not gonna be pretty if they get wet. (Somehow in the sunlight, they turned out to be far more revealing than they were in the dressing room and in my dark apartment.) So I'm balancing precariously on the rocks while the waves keep crashing around me when I look up and there's this family, not ten feet away, coming right towards me trying to manage on the same rocks that I am. As I'm trying to figure out how we're going to get around each other, I slip and fall right down into the water. And as I'm pulling myself up out of the freezing water onto a rock, I look down at my sheer white shorts and they have suddenly and magically become transparent. And instead of hanging off my butt like they're supposed to, they're now hanging off of what looks like a roll of nickels broken in half.
I probably should have pretended to faint and dropped back into the water and waited. Instead I tried to pull my shorts back up but they were so waterlogged and stuck to me that they wouldn't budge. So I just kind of closed my eyes, held my breath and proceeded to move on by the cute little family in front of me - transparent white shorts hanging off of what little there was left of my manhood and my pride.
I scurried over to a cove in the rocks and sat down quickly before anybody else could come along, hoping that as flimsy and sheer as these shorts were, they'd quickly dry and I could continue with my walk. But you'll remember that it was a cold and cloudy morning. So I sat there for over an hour, shaking the crotch of my shorts back and forth and then letting the fabric drape down over my nickel roll once in awhile to see if the linen had lost any of its transparency. I'm sure that had anybody been watching from the homes on the cliff, they'd have called the cops and had me arrested, because for all intents and purposes I'm sure it looked like I was having a grand ol time with myself down there on the rocks. Well, just for the record, I wasn't.
When I was sure that my shorts had dried enough so that I could get up and walk without exposing myself to the world again, I gathered my wits about me and made a plan as to how I was going to get back around the rocks without getting wet this time. I studied the rocks under the crashing waves and knew in advance where each and every one of my steps would be. I observed the patterns of the waves and had it all figured out, in my mind at least, how I was going to do this. I would cling to the wall of rocks to my right and if I was careful, all would go well.
As I stepped successfully onto the third large rock under the water, an enormous wave came crashing up, broke against the wall of rocks to my side and totally drenched me from head to toe. This time, feeling more angry than embarassed, I said, "Ah, screw it," and I took off indignantly back up the beach. Until that is, I looked back down at myself and realized that I wasn't going anywhere with "that" on full display through my once again transparent designer shorts. I threw myself onto a little sand dune in a huff and waited yet again for my shorts to dry.
Oh no. We're not done yet. I didn't really have the patience to wait for my clothes to dry out completely this second time around, so I just kind of positioned my sandals over my crotch and took off in a dead heat back up the beach to my car. As fate would have it, my friend who owns the 'boys' bookstore in Laguna, (and that I have something of a flirtation going with,) was standing out front with a friend of his and I had no choice but to stop and say hello. He grabbed me and gave me a huge "full-body" bearhug and an unusually long and friendly kiss, (it's Sunday morning for heaven's sake) when I suddenly realized that there weren't enough church hymns in the world that I could sing in that moment to stop what I knew was happening "down under."
When he finally decided to release me, he looked down at me and said, "You're all wet!" I babbled something about having fallen into the water and then he notices my tattoo and reaches down to push my shorts even farther down than they already were so he can get a better look at it. At this point, what was little more than a half a roll of nickels earlier in the cold ocean water, was now a thundering, full-on roll of silver dollars on Pacific Coast Highway.
I just wanted to die.
I'm thinking, you know, "Why don't I just take these damn things off right here, right now in the middle of the street. You know, remove the mystery altogether and just get it over with. I didn't know whether to faint or throw-up. And mind you, this is the second time in the past couple of hours that I'd felt like I was gonna faint, so it's not been such a good morning all in all.
It's a shame I wasn't carrying a purse because a pair of flip flops don't go very far in terms of trying to cover up what I was trying to cover up. "Come on, I'll walk you to your car," Jim offers; compassionately ignoring what was impossible to ignore once he'd pulled my shorts down around my ankles to take a look at my tattoo. "Oh right - that's exactly what I had in mind right now - walking with you down Pacific Coast Highway to my car." But he took off and I had no choice but to follow.
Along the way, I thought, "You know Tom, you have nothing left to lose at this point. Why don't you just ask him out? It's obvious now that you like him. Cat's kinda outta the bag on that one. Mustering up all of my courage, which had to surface through miles of humiliation, I asked Jim out. The roll of silver dollars retreated to a manageable roll of quarters and we got to my car where I got Jim's phone number and some blood back into my head.
He took off for church and I took off for the nursery where I'd seen an orchid I wanted to buy. But not before we'd stood there on the sidewalk and had another long, terribly affectionate hug and kiss in front of god only knows how many tourists and locals wandering by. As I was walking back down along Pacific Coast Highway with a delicate, lavendar orchid plant bouncing happily in my arms, I wondered if people would finally believe me now when I tell them I'm gay.
Next time you hear me complaining about how boring my life is, do me a favor and refer me back to this story. Please.
From the water's edge...