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Plinky wants to know about my favorite summer memory.

The concept of “favorite” strikes me as weird in this context, Plinky. I have to say. Red velvet cake is my favorite kind of cake, because I like to eat it. In the mornings, I choose to wear my favorite shirt more often than I choose the others, because I like to wear it. My favorite pet is the one I am petting right now, Callista the kitty, because I like to pet it (and it doesn’t lick me or whine or demand my attention as much as the others). And so on. Memories (and colors, for that matter–but that’s a subject for another time) don’t work that way. I don’t sit around choosing memories to remember, and I certainly don’t choose to remember one of them over the others more frequently, just because I like remembering it. Plinky, Plinky, Plinky, what are you thinking? May I suggest that you mean to ask me, “What is something you remember happening in the summer that you think you could maybe write an interesting blog post about?”

So here’s one.

Our first summer together, 1992, Joe and I drove down to Navarre Beach in Pensacola for either Labor Day or Memorial Day. I forget which; whichever one is a big gay holiday there.

Here’s what happened: I was bumped repeatedly by a fish in shallow waters. I’d run and scream trying to get away from it. Then look back down and it was still there, bumping me. I should mention that the beach was full of beefy gay men, body builders and circuit queens. I should also explain what I mean by “bumping.” I mean the fish would come right up to me, and bump its head on my legs, three, four, five times. Then I would run. It would chase. And then bump. I remain convinced to this day that it was a shark getting ready to bite. A four or five inch long shark. With a very hard head.

Here’s what happened before that: we drove all day and most of the night to get down there, from Birmingham, where we lived at the time. We arrived at 3am, and all the hotels were full up, so we decided to sleep on the beach. It felt safe: we were surrounded, as a matter of fact, by lesbians dancing to bongo drums. Also: that was the first, and only, time I ever actually saw the Milky Way spreading across the sky. Also: I woke up around noon, red as a crab from sleeping in the sun.

Here’s what happened after that: Joe hadn’t slept at all, so toward the end of the day we decided to try and go find a hotel room, but they were all still full up. He was driving the car and I was reading a Saul Bellow paperback. I don’t know why I remember that it was Saul Bellow and don’t remember which Saul Bellow, but that is what I remember. He fell asleep while driving, literally started snoring in traffic. I grabbed the wheel, steered us into the shoulder, and woke him up long enough to get him to safely pull us into the parking lot of a bank that happened to be nearby, under a tree, so we wouldn’t overheat. Then he slept, and I read the rest of my book.

Joe still tells people the story of me running like a silly queen from the fish that kept bumping me. He tells it to undercut my masculinity in mixed (gay and straight) company, because he doesn’t want any of our straight friends thinking he’s “the woman” of the relationship. Which man in a gay relationship is “the woman” is a question that one’s straight friends always have on their minds, even though they pretend they don’t — it does no good to explain to them that the question is meaningless, that, duh, obviously, there’s no woman in a relationship between two men.

So there you have it, Plinky, a memory for you.

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