Close encounters of three kinds
Friday ended up having both a nice high and an interesting low. Since it was such a nice day, the two of us took a walk down the scenic Roger C. Cook Greenway here in Hightstown. Despite some drivers who apparently haven’t heard of New Jersey’s new law requiring them to stop when a pedestrian is in the walkway (as opposed to nearly running them over), we had a nice time getting some low-key exercise in the perfect spring weather.
The only problem of the trip occurred when we got to the bridge over Peddie Lake, next to the pricey prep school. It was a minor issue, and it didn’t throw us off our game, but that’s what I found so significant about it.
As we were holding hands, a man drove by the two of us and yelled something angry we couldn’t quite make out, but it definitely began with an “f” and was certainly disapproving and rude. I’d place my bet on either of two choice expressions I’m sure any of you could imagine.
There was a time when this would have ruined the entire walk for both of us, but it turns out by now this has happened to us frequently enough we can take it in stride. This time I asked, “Was he yelling at us?” and Mike said something along the lines of “I think so,” and that was that. But later on I thought back to some of the many times past this has happened and how much it used to upset us both, though I usually put on a brave enough face to keep Mike’s spirits up.
It’s really sad the two of us have come to the point where we simply expect people to scream hateful things at us sometimes, but that’s the way of things. We’ve seen attitudes shift even in the four years we’ve been together, and I feel confident we’re doing our part by being open about who we are. Honestly, there’s a definite logic to keeping our defenses up a bit all the time, as long as we can do it without too much effort, conscious or subconscious.
Later that evening we stopped by the mechanic’s to pick up his car, now with a functioning motor in the passenger-side door, and the man in charge there was happy to see us together. Neither of us had been by in a while, and this rough-and-tumble Jersey man told us, “I’m glad to see you guys are still together.” I was floored.
Of course it would be bad business to be openly hostile to us, but for a stranger to acknowledge our relationship is actually pretty rare, to the point I’m grateful when someone does so. So I’m willing to call the day a slight win, with unexpected kindness making up for the earlier slight.
Astute readers will by now be wondering why I referred to three incidents in the title of this post when there were clearly only two that day. But worry not! I have one last story to tell today.
When I was up at Mike’s place a few weeks ago, we made a commercial-inspired decision and headed over to the Hudson Valley Fair (website has annoying music). I love fairs, so we had a great time going on the cheesy rides, and he even won me a cute little stuffed penguin. But the most amusing part of the evening happened before we went over to the fairgrounds.
We called in an order for a pizza margherita at a brick-oven place just down the road from his apartment, and fifteen or so minutes later we drove down to pick it up. The establishment is run by an Italian family and has a very pleasant, old-world feel, and the woman who runs it has a wonderful Italian style and accent. When we came in to pick up our order, she recognized us and smiled, and when we both pulled out our wallets to pay, she asked, “Are you two brothers?”
It’s sort of a dreaded question, since we’re both brown-haired men of largely German descent, though I honestly don’t think we look very much alike. But it was such a funny moment, and she was so earnest, I just smiled and told her, “No, we’re boyfriends.”
“What?” she asked, like she had misheard.
“Boyfriends,” I repeated. “We’re dating.”
She looked at me for a second and I saw something click in her head. And you know what she did?
She smiled widely and declared, “Oh! That’s good!”
Her son took over to ring us up and looked a little embarrassed, but I found the whole experience so charming I’m going to insist we go there every time we want a pizza from now on.