#13: Chicken dinner date with the mystery man
Robert had a longtime rule for himself. If he encountered a man to whom he was overwhelmingly attracted, he turned his back and fled as far and as fast as he could.
He learned in the past that such charismatic men made bad boyfriends, usually requiring constant attention. They were flirtatious with everyone and made Robert feel like a barely present shadow.
That situation came up at the last Food Porn Supper Club meeting. A man named Lee arrived late and introduced himself to Robert. He had black hair and blue eyes, and obviously hit the gym frequently.
Robert felt himself in the kind of awe that usually cued him to get up and leave. But that would be extremely unmannerly at a dinner he was hosting. So he avoided eye contact with Lee.
After dinner, his friend Janet drove him home. “I saw your reaction when Lee arrived,” she said.
“Please, shut up, Janet,” Robert replied. “I don’t need to hear it.”
“Hear what?” Janet asked. “I’m just observing that, as usual, you turned away from a man obviously interested in you.”
“Merry Christmas,” Robert said, noting the Christmas tree lot at Ansley Mall.
A few days later, Robert received an email from Lee inviting him to dinner. His immediate response was to delete the mail, but he imagined the scolding he would get from Janet.
So he wrote Lee back that he’d like to join him. Lee responded that he would meet him at Bantam and Biddy, the new restaurant in Ansley Mall, at 7:30 Saturday night.
When Robert walked through the parking lot toward the new restaurant, he saw Lee standing near the door. He gulped and had an immediate impulse to turn around and get in his car. But he heard Lee shouting his name. “I’m over here, Robert!”
They shook hands and went inside. They perused the menu at the front of the restaurant where diners order. The restaurant’s name derives from the specialty here: rotisserie chicken. Still, there are other dishes on the menu, like meatloaf, fresh vegetables, a cobb salad, chicken pot pie, and pork schnitzel.
“Have you eaten here before?” Robert asked. “A couple of times,” Lee said. “I really like it.” “It seems kind of expensive to me for chicken,” Robert replied.
“It’s not Chick-fil-A,” Lee responded. “Everything here is local. The chickens lived very pampered lives before they were executed. And that makes them expensive.”
“I haven’t decided,” Lee said. “I find the holiday tedious. It should only be celebrated every 10 years or so. But that would ruin the American economy, literally. Christmas even drives people to kill themselves in greaterthan-usual numbers.”
“Honestly,” Robert said, “I assumed you loved Christmas. You are very handsome. You know that. Every gay man in this restaurant stared at you when we came in. I think anyone would assume you love going to all the Christmas parties.”
“Nope, not at all,” Lee replied. “I’m not anti-Christmas if it’s toned way down, like the French do. I don’t like the Fourth of July, either. Religion and nationalism are two of America’s severest defects. I do like Halloween.”
Their entrees arrived and a few minutes of silence followed as they sampled the food.
“It’s as good as you promised,” Robert said, “but I’m still curious. Can you not set aside the religious meaning of Christmas and enjoy the food, friends, and family?”
Lee shrugged. “Sure, I guess.” He looked down at his plate and ate a chunk of meatloaf.
Not long after, they said good-bye. “I enjoyed it,” Lee said. “Are you open to getting together again?”
“Sure,” Robert said, somewhat surprised. He was curious why Lee avoided telling him his occupation and seemed so generally undisclosing. But his attraction to Lee was not diminished. He would get the scoop on him somehow.