Modesto, California has three gay bars. The Tiki Lounge, The Brave Bull, and Climax. My parents had their first date at The Tiki- before it became a gay bar in the 90s. It was one of the first bathrooms I graffiti’d a haiku into the plastic divider of a stall. It was a haven to many in the central of the the Central Valley- a staple dive bar for loud, pounding throwbacks and everyone+their momma had gotten more than a little drunk there at least once in their life.
My friends from Stan State adored going there. For me, too many offer from couples and grinding from uninvited guest to my body were a constant at the tiny bar. Brave Bull was where they had drag shows way down off of 9th Street in the downtown area. They had a pool hall in one section of the with a stripper pole and stage that melted into a dancefloor on the other with a DJ booth that made me envious for the 70s dream of the future. But the gay bar of my heart was Climax.
It was in the middle of downtown, on the other side of the tracks in every definition of the phrase. I hesitate to call it seedy, but not a part you want to walk in after dark, a desolate place right off the freeway, only the 7 Roy G. Biv recessed lights beaming down from the dark of the building and onto the sidewalk. I’ll never forget walking into the center room of the bar and dancefloor- The lighting was muted and soft, giving everything a speakeasy look, despite the modern furniture and barstools. And when the music started, so did the lightshow, bathing everything in rave, classic hiphop throwbacks bumping through the speakers, the wall to watch the dancers coated in fur that dreams of becoming sha carpet in slate gray- it was like walking into a real club, and not a bar.
Me, being who I am, let the music flood over me and dragged my friends out onto the dancefloor. The crowd was, sparse, to say the least, but I had everyone in there out on the tiles, doing 2 steps and shuffles and shimmy-shakes like they knew this was the place to be.
Two women, both dressed in all white, slinked onto the dancefloor with us, sparking my small cluster of friends to broaden our small dance circle. One caught my eye, winked, and proceeded to show off her moves so to speak. It wasn’t the first time a woman flirted so boldly with me, but it felt like it. The beat dropped into “Suavemente” and she caught me by the hand and twirled me- I was caught before I even knew the possibility to resist was something I could do. She spun me around the dancefloor, holding my hips close, but never too close, giving me time to say no before my lips did. But my lips didn’t want to tell her no, as long as me could move like this. I decided to make my move, after she had made so many. There was no liquor in my system to embolden me, no form of liquid courage- only my own reserves, which are already so small- at the end of the song, instead of moving away, I pulled her into me as my body rolled down, my arms bringing her hands to my hips, throwing my ass back into her like we were the perfect fit- and we were a pretty damn good fit. She pulled my torso to hers, took my weight nd pulled my hips into her life there was room left to do so, switching the rolls in her hips with sways. If I didn’t know I was into women before, I sure did then. We danced throughout the night, on and off, retreating back to our social circles to check in. I was courageous enough to dance with her, but not enough to ask for her number. I never caught her name. We spoke in movements only and the conversation consisted of “yes?” “please” “okay” and that was enough.