Scratch the Matchmaker
After his boyfriend moves out of state without telling him, Jay wants only to indulge in a weekend of drunken self-pity. Before he can get started, though, he is rescued by a stray dog.
While obtaining the necessary food and supplies he needs to take care of the dog, named Scratch, he meets Richard, a veterinary student. Better still, Richard offers to meet up to talk to him about caring for a dog.
Lessons in taking care of a dog lead to lessons Jay never expected, but Jay isn't the only one with a sour past, and all the two men hope to learn from and with each other may be cut all too short.
I thought David was everything I wanted in a guy. At least he seemed so at the time. Looking back, it's easy to see he wasn't at all what I really wanted and not close to what I needed. I realize now how seeing him only on weekends should have triggered some kind of alarm telling me something wasn't right. It was all just so convenient. After a hard week's work, sex came to my door about dinnertime. Every Friday he arrived about five thirty. He worked in a big hotel and had odd hours, but he had every weekend off. He had an apartment in Phoenix he shared with someone. Phoenix is the big city next to Tempe where I live.
The first time we met was at a party. He was someone else's date, but so was I. A month later I was having a beer with my friend Logan in a local cowboy bar, the Nu Towne Saloon. It was the closest gay bar to Tempe. As we sat at the bar, I felt painfully single, a feeling I intensely disliked. Some people have a blast being single. I'm the kind of guy who just wants to feel like I belong to the guy I'm with. I understood that knowing someone I cared about who felt the same way about me would be just about the biggest joy in the world, but I had no experience with what that was.
I was on the hunt that night. Dressed to accentuate my best qualities, I walked into the bar looking good, sporting thick straight brown hair, a strong jaw, and good cheekbones. My eyes were honey colored, a sort of hazel. I was thin without being skinny and average height. History had shown me that when I wanted to attract men, they were attracted to me. I wanted someone special, but I really had no idea what that meant. I had imaginary pictures in my head, but they were just that. In reality, I had no idea what I needed.
That second time I met David, I spotted him as soon as he walked into the bar. Logan was saying something to me, but his words never reached me.
"Someone I sort of know is over at the bar," I said, hardly paying attention to Logan anymore. "Would you excuse me a minute? I want to go say hi."
"Go get 'em Jay," he whispered as he watched me heading across the bar. I hoped he didn't feel abandoned. At the same time I realized that when two guys sit together guys tend to assume they're a couple. Maybe being alone isn't a bad thing, I thought.
Walking across the bar, I was standing right behind David as he turned around with his beer. He took a step before he realized someone was there and walked right into me, spilling the top of his draft beer down my shirt. Startled, he stepped back and grabbed a handful of napkins off the bar. Before I could react, he'd begun to pat me down, reaching down my shirt to dry me off. I looked up to see he was already looking directly into my eyes. He didn't seem to have recognized me. I froze, watching him give me a beer bath with a wad of napkins. He didn't take his eyes off mine while he reached down the front of my shirt pretending to soak up all the beer.
As he withdrew his hand from my shirt, he reached around with his other hand, putting it around my waist. "Are you here with that guy from the party tonight?"
I was thrilled to see that he recognized me. "No. That didn't really go anywhere. I'm here with my friend Logan."
Looking me over he said, "You can't stand here in a beer-soaked shirt all night. Why don't we go to your place and get you something dry?"
"My apartment is over the hill there in Tempe. I'm finishing up my masters at ASU."
"That's not so far. Let's go."
"Sure. But maybe we can just visit there for a bit. I mean, why don't you follow me there?"
"I need to talk to Logan. I might need to drop him off on the way."
"Go for it."
Wandering back over to Logan, I worked on my story. Somehow, I needed to get his permission to abandon him, ending his evening out with me just as it was getting started. I headed back over to Logan to explain what had happened.
"I can see. He's hot. Don't worry about me; I know lots of the guys here. With any luck I'll be going home with one of them. If not, I'll call a cab."
I was so relieved knowing he'd saved me the humiliation of having to beg. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, but you're telling me all about it tomorrow."
So, that's how David and I started seeing each other. He swept me off my feet in a bar. Not terribly romantic, but sometimes it isn't. After getting me home, he took off my shirt and didn't stop there. He took that first kiss all the way to the bedroom. After making love to me like he'd been doing it for months, he rolled me over and held me close to him as he headed off to sleep.
I was completely smitten, smiling as I lay there in his arms. I was so immersed in afterglow it didn't occur to me that I knew nothing about him.
After about three months of regular weekends together, I still knew little about him. I'd concentrated on my studies. He never talked about himself, which made me think he was being humble. He didn't seem to be very introspective. I'd learned he was from Indiana and he'd had a boyfriend there. After their breakup he moved to Arizona. How or why they'd broken up was never mentioned. I had no idea why Arizona was his destination. He had no family here. There were so many more exciting places for a gay man to live.
That particular Friday, as it got to be about six o'clock, I began to worry. Dinner was ready to cook, and while it could wait, David's not being here was throwing me off. He didn't work on Fridays and I wasn't supposed to call his house. Should I put dinner in the oven without knowing when he's going to arrive? I wondered. I'd planned on starting it when he got here. We'd have a little time that way to unwind and visit awhile before we ate. If he was going to be really late shouldn't he call? Was he even still coming?
When seven rolled around, my patience was finally over. I called his cell phone only to discover the service had been disconnected. When it got to be eight, I got in my car and headed into Phoenix stopping at the hotel where he worked. One of the girls who worked with him occasionally was on duty. I'd met her a time or two when we were out on the town. "Hi, Jay," she said. "What can I do for you?"
"I dropped in to see if David was working. I tried calling him, but his phone's out."
Her face fell and I just had this feeling… "Honey, he hasn't worked here since last Friday. We had a little going away party for him on Monday. Right after the party he headed out to the airport. He was moving back to Indiana."
"He was at my house last weekend."
"Maybe he left right after. You mean… he never told you?"
"No..." I didn't know what else to say.