On my way back from Howard’s Cafe this afternoon, I stroll by a children’s toy store to discover a box of freebies. A plastic Viking ship approx’ly 14 inches long by 12 inches high with a dragon’s head at the bow immediately catches my eye. So I lift it from the box and hold it in my arms. Raise the mast high and pull the orange oars out. I soon discover that the dragon tail can be pushed down, causing the head to yank forward with jaws open wide! The wings flush at the stern can also be teased outward.
Then I realize my pack will soon be loaded with groceries from Park’s Farmers Market two blocks up, and this ship is just too bulky. So I deliver the toy back to the carton with a sigh of regret, and plod on.
“Wait!” a voice speaks to no one but my own silly self. “It’s for you. Get it before someone else does.”
Compelled as if by demons, I turn tail from the stoplight and trot back to claim my plunder, this Jutland ark with a monster on board. Extract a crinkly, green plastic bag from the backpack and gingerly stuff my new plaything into it. The head, mast and tail poke out, but I can hold the bag’s floppy handles together with a careful hand. Then I march on to purchase a large bell pepper, small head of broccoli, one massive onion, and four bananas.
Despite this unexpected burden I decide to power-walk all the way back to the Castro, my home since 1983. (Actually, since 1973 if you ignore my 3-year hiatus in Santa Cruz.) 35 minutes later, after a steep climb up, and then down, 17th Street I pass by Keith (and Gus’s) flat at the end of Collingwood, admiring his wire-and-light mobile on the back porch as I always do. So glad he’s doing better, I think, then proceed across Harvey Milk Plaza to stop at the red light by Castro & Market.
I then cross and mosey on by Twin Peaks Tavern to purchase a pack of Fortuna 100’s two doors down. Arwyn is there, slumped on a barstool and looking out the plate glass front. Of course he sees me, and of course I ignore him. It’s mutual at this sorry point. Nonetheless, I am hopping-eager to depart from the smoke shop and stroll by him once more. So I do just that as I cross 17th and pause by an army-green canister to light up.
I set down my backpack and the tote containing this Viking treasure…which sack now also holds a colorful plaid shirt that I acquired just five blocks back, from a Trader Joe’s bag filled with neatly ironed, discarded clothing. Naturally, I feign watching the surly street bums (mostly hetero) commiserating in the metal chairs at Jane Warner Plaza, though I’m really glancing through my shades in Arwyn’s direction. He is not visible, stationed as he is at an angle outside my arc of view.
Fine with me, I’m not here to fuk with him. He knows I’m outside, I affirm. Just wanna make myself available to a true friend, albeit it in the doghouse. (Or should I say “reptile cage?”)
It’s a dank late afternoon, sun will set in a half hour. I shiver in spite of a black T-shirt covered by a thin sweater and open corduroy jacket. Then Arwyn steps out to puff on a ciggie while I enjoy smoking mine. I suddenly start hacking, no intent to draw his attention, but I do. Just for a second though; he tosses his butt to the ground and reenters Twin Peaks. Along with his skinny, wan compatriot who is often there beside him. He is not the least bit attractive, thank Goddess.
Sos I linger a while longer and lo and behold: Arwyn emerges once more to chat up an elderly queer for a spare stick o’ tobacco. Nice to hear his strident words, like a wise teenager. I love to hear his voice, even if from a distance. I decide then to pick up my pack and bag and return home. Rather than wait till Arwyn steps back into the tavern. This, out of respect for our presently difficult association. Just wanted him to see I’m here for him, and always will be…whether or not he cares to talk at this time.
Once crossed to the other side of Market, I walk a few more paces then decide to stop and look back at My Wily Wyvern. He looks straight at me and waves a surreptitious hand. Rather than retreat abruptly like some broken hearted adolescent girl, I wave back in friendship, then continue my way home to 2306. But another 20 feet down, I decide to turn my face to him once more. Can’t tell if he’s lookin’ back, as I’m too far away and nearsighted.
And at that moment the sky suddenly lights up with luminescent, salmon-tinted clouds that diffuse a pink light through every object, moving or stationary. I feel bathed in glory.
When I arrive hovel, I put the groceries away and place my plastic toy atop the tri-level racks that house condiments, tea and cocoa. Then sit down and think about what just occurred:
Did he really wave at me, or did I imagine? He could’ve just lifted his hand to take a puff or scratch his nose. Did he even look at me? I think he did. Furthermore: if my hunch is correct (that he’s a detective on a case), and it’s just too dangerous for us to be seen together, then his subtle greeting from afar makes perfect sense.
Whatever the truth, my spirits always rise whenever I see him or hear his voice. Regardless of whether or not we’re on the “ins” or on the “outs.” Then there’s this Viking ship. Only recently (four nights ago in fact) did I start reading Beowulf for the first time, and also watched the movie. A Viking hero who fell under the curse of a demon.
I am reminded of my vision many years back: how Odin showed me the salvation of all souls no matter the depth of their sins. How it will liberate My Randolph from unending grief over Vietnam. This Nordic god actually revealed the logistics of such redemption…which are astoundingly elegant and simple! A trick if you will, but a most divinely orchestrated trick. I have recorded this vision in my essay, “NeoPositivity, a Gay Religion” (dated 2000):
What intrigues me most about this godly visitation, is that I’ve never been interested in Viking lore, so never expected a deity from that corner of the globe to reach out. Yet Odin’s revelation was the most awesome and beautiful of them all!
I therefore believe that this Valhallian object is a gift from Odin, a promise of friendship renewed between Arwyn and myself. Plus, it likely also honors the hero’s path, that is my life since birth. And Arwyn’s I presume. Still, one more thing: the dragon’s head.
Throughout my first published novel, “Free Me From This Bond,” I frequently describe Arwyn as my guardian dragon.
Need I say any more?