I’d been stalking...a jean jacket. It is a Lee jean jacket circa 1971, with a stitch-supported collar. It was only $34, but because I get cheap at weird moments, I’d been half-heartedly haunting it at Wasteland, my favorite San Francisco vintage clothing shop, for the past couple weeks. Thursday morning, I finally decided I would buy it. When I got to the store, I saw that it was gone from the rack. Lost it through indecision, I thought. Then I looked up and it was hanging high on the wall, hugged over a Culture Club t-shirt. I asked a store employee to use the big fat whaling hook to get it down for me.
The gal who got the jean jacket down for me was also the one who eventually rang me up. Whaling hook in hand, she asked me if I was wearing Amber. When I replied No, Daphne, actually, she commented on the scent’s nice nostalgic warmth. Like all the clerks at Wasteland, she was in her early twenties. She was a tall, vaguely Nordic thing. Thin, but voluptuous—perhaps deceptively so. She may have been neither thin nor voluptuous. But she was quite pretty. The detail that really made her pretty in my eyes was that she had an odd, dark red-purple wound on the bridge of her nose. It was a purposefully artsy splatter on her otherwise flawless typing-paper skin.
The total of my purchase came to one of my favorite number combinations: 49.28. (I threw in a ragged three-clover tee as well.) She had actually given me a little discount. We chatted as she rang me up. I told her how much I liked the long black knit dress she was wearing. It was a crewneck one-piece with long sleeves, a black bodice and color-blocked maxi skirt. “I love those little knit dresses,” I said. Then she said the cutest thing I’d heard in a while:
“Yeah. It looked so dumpy on the rack, but I had faith in it.”
“That is so cute—you had faith in the dress!” I said before she asked, “What’s your name again?” “Again,” as if either she knew my name already or ought to know it. I told her, she told me hers.
“I’ve seen you around a lot,” she said. I almost replied, Well, I’m at this store a lot but instead, but self-conscious of my shopping addiction, I just smiled and said “Awww, really?” We had a nice handshake, nice sweet wave goodbye and see ya round.
The encounter put me in a weirdly god mood. I felt kind of romantic. Of course I am homosexual and I cannot imagine desiring to use my penis with her (I have a hard enough time desiring to use my penis with boys) but I found this gal very pretty—as in, attractive. I haven’t felt that bisexual in a long time. And while the feeling was unfamiliar, it didn’t feel at all puzzling or destabilizing. Her openness, her willingness to just pour herself out in words spoken out loud, her instinct to create immediate intimacy: I connected with that, because I am that. These are qualities I value in humans, but what they really constitute is the defining quality of woman: a willingness to take risks with the ego. With this pretty Nordic gal, that quality gave her a high gloss. Thus she made my most sapphic moment.
Big purple Wasteland bag in hand, I then walked about the Castro to pick up some magazines and restock on Dunhill International menthols. As I walked up and down Market and 18th and Castro streets, I inevitably saw a whole lot of fags—and in the small afterglow of the Nordic gal, they grossed me out. Their muscles, facial hair, the sheer physical room they took up on the sidewalk, all seemed barriers to intimacy. Femininity shoots towards closeness; masculinity is about closEDness. Masculinity closes in on its own important sense of self. The masculine closedness of gay men I saw made them so ugly it shocked me to think that I’d ever found bald heads, beards, and pectorals to be an unquestionable formula for sexual attractiveness. At that moment, and for many hours afterwards, I found that pretty Nordic gal to be a preferable sexual partner, in spite of my sexual preference.