I felt excitement as I looked at this elegant old building.
"This is the best dry barbeque restaurant in town. I think that you'll enjoy the food," Mike said, as we entered this smoky den of the past. "The Rendezvous has been around for a long time. Everyone calls it the 'Vous.' This is a real piece of Memphis history."
The interior was well worn but appeared to be well maintained and clean. The exposed brick walls and dark heavy wood beams of the ceiling gave the rooms a sturdy, masculine feeling. However, the unplanned meeting with Brent still unsettled me. I kept thinking about an unwanted confrontation being likely between my roommate and Mike.
"This sure beats Applebee's." We smiled at each other as I surreptitiously jabbed Mike's side with my elbow.
As we walked up to the reception area, surrounded with timeworn artifacts and the smells of the ovens creating their magic, the host greeted Mike as an old friend as they shook hands.
"Hi Charlie. I want you to meet a friend of mine. This is Dave Swenson. Charlie Vergos and his family own the restaurant."
The large man - probably of Greek extraction, I guessed, based on the name and his dark features - smiled and grabbed my hand. "Dave, any friend of Mike's is always welcome here." After shaking hands, Charlie led us into the front dining room and a corner table, with menus in hand.
"Charlie's son and I went to school together at Cornell," Mike explained as we followed the older man.
I subtly scanned the area for any sign of Brent and his client. I was pretty sure that 'client' was the proper term...although I knew that cops sometimes referred to the person as a 'john'. Charlie seated us, left us with the menus, and I took the opportunity to quietly say, "It appears you're tops in their book."
Once we were seated, a mature African American waiter with the worry-lines of a man twice his age approached and said, "Hey, Mr. Mike, good to see you again." He then asked what he could bring from the bar.
Mike opted for a Manhattan up; I asked for a Corona Light. After he was satisfied with my I.D., the waiter left.
"Our waiter, Percy, is a veteran of over 25 years, and most of the crew have been here all their lives. Are you ready to dig into the ribs?"
"You bet. This is going to be a real treat, Si...ah...Mike," I stumbled, still not completely at ease calling an officer by his first name.
When Percy returned with the drinks, Mike ordered a large slab of ribs to be shared, the famous mustard slaw, and two sides of corn-on-the-cob. Moments later, the busboy brought us water and hot biscuits, with butter and honey on the side.
Preparing a biscuit with only honey, Mike looked at me and said, "Jump in, these are best when eaten right away, while they're still hot."
I followed suit, chasing the first bite with beer. After another few bites of the food, I said, "Thanks for getting me off the base. I haven't had a chance to do this for a while. First, boot camp, and then the tech school."
"It's time you checked out this terrific city. I hope you'll let me be your guide." He looked into my eyes with expectation.
"I'd like nothing more. It's just that this has happened so fast."
"I know. We need to talk about what happened back at the locker room," he said in a pleasant but somber tone of voice.
"I'd like to clear the air, Sir."
"First, drop this 'Sir' stuff." Mike reached for his cocktail glass by the stem and took a long sip. "I want to make sure that you're okay with what we did and what you feel, but you saying 'clear the air,' makes me think you may have some regrets." He slowly rotated the cocktail glass on the table with his fingers.
I felt his energy transferring to me, as he looked into my eyes with caring and assurance.
"No regrets at all. I'm fine, and honestly my feelings for you are pretty intense." My voice was a mixture of excitement and concern. "I don't know where this is leading, but I wanna find out."
"Me too," Mike added as he reached over and briefly squeezed my hand. "I've been rattling around in the closet, alone too long. Just so you know, this is the first time I've felt this way...with anyone."
"I told you I came out to my parents a year before they died. But, except for a few guys, I've maintained a very low profile." I didn't add that the "few" guys numbered exactly four; two of whom I had only met in the last 48 hours - Jim and Mike.
"I admire you for being honest with yourself. I finally admitted to myself that I'm only attracted to guys," he continued as he looked down at his half-finished Manhattan, "and it was you who convinced me. I've lived a lie for too long." He looked solemnly down at his cocktail glass. "I literally 'screwed around' Chicago's gay area when I was a high school senior, and had my share of experiences at Cornell. But I always thought that it was just a phase. You know, screw around with some guys to get it out of my system, then I'd settle down with a wife for life. House, kids...the whole ball of wax."
"Just for the record, Mike," I rejoined in an upbeat manner, "I'm not a slut," grinning as Mike looked back at me. "When I mentioned a 'few guys' just now, I was exaggerating a bit. Although I'll be turning 21 soon, truth is I've had various levels of sex with only one guy. That was my best friend at home, and I was in love with him. The other times, it was just two guys getting off together. Safely, I might add."
"Yeah, I loved Russ, but it was one-sided. Russ was my straight friend who loved the sex and liked the friendship. And, I gotta admit, we had sex a lot."
"It looks like I might need some instructions from you then...other than the swimming," Mike offered with his smiling personality returning. "My casual one-time encounters were always very safe, and I've routinely been tested. I'm very healthy and haven't had a reason to be tested for quite a while."
"Me too." I thought for a moment, selecting the right words. "Mike, would I be too out of line to ask where you think our friendship could go? Is this going too fast for you?" I asked slowly. "I may be younger but I don't want this to be a brief affair."
"Hey, it's not like I'm an old man," Mike said as he laughed out loud. "What am I, three years older?" Then, switching gears, he added more seriously, "I'll be upfront. I'm not risking a Navy commission for a simple fling with a sailor." In a lower tone, with hushed inflection, he added, "From our very first meeting, I've felt something special growing in my heart for you. Yeah, it's a bonus that you are a hot looking guy, but I sense a depth about you that I want to discover. Dave, this may be fast, but I'm pretty sure that I want to be with you for a very long time."
"A fling is the furthest thing from my mind," I replied in almost a whisper. "I want to share everything with you; my thoughts and deepest secrets. And I really hope you want to do the same."
At that moment, the waiter bringing the dinner interrupted the intensity at the table. "Wow," I remarked, "this is enough food to feed the barracks."
"Don't worry about finishing it. Charlie always gives me a doggie bag and some extra food always finds its way into the sack. You can share it with your roommate."
"That's an idea," I replied, as I almost choked on his words.
We ordered two beers and dug into the hot food and slaw in front of us after Percy placed large paper bibs over our heads to protect our shirts.
As we wolfed down the fantastic ribs, Mike continued with the serious topic at hand.
"Let's talk about the Navy aspect," he offered, after wiping the rib coating from his lips. "I'm glad we're in agreement that what's happening is positive, and that we nurture this relationship quietly...between only you and me?"
"Yep, 'Don't' Ask, Don't tell.' I know that I want to explore the feelings we have between us." Under the table, I felt his foot touch my leg. He had removed his shoe and slowly stroked my left calf with his sock-covered foot. I smiled and added, "You keep up that foot action on my leg and I may attack you on the spot, right here in the dining room."
"That would be hot...but not socially acceptable," Mike replied with a chuckle. He smiled and pulled back his foot.
"Appearances are everything, Mr. Cole...and I can wait." I smiled and slightly wiggled my eyebrows.
"Obviously we need to be completely discrete on the base at all times," Mike said. "As tempting as it is, I don't think we should screw around after hours in the locker room. That would be a disaster waiting to happen."
I nodded my head in agreement. "Yeah. The last thing we need is a Navy version of 'Candid Camera'."
"You really are a trivia guy."
"My social life has been anything but hot...and gay," I remarked with a wink.
"I think your social life is going to improve immensely." He appeared to be one happy camper as he continued, "If you don't mind spending your extra time with me in town. Let's eat some more before the food gets cold, then we can figure out how we could make this work."
We ate until I was getting full. I looked up at Mike, and while still chewing, suggested, "Why don't we rent a small studio apartment, nothing fancy, somewhere here in Memphis?" Washing the food down with a swig of beer, I added, "I've got enough rainy day money to share the rent...if you join me." I decided not to mention yet what exactly was meant by 'rainy day money' - my inheritance was the furthest thing from my mind. 'I'll cross that bridge, soon,' I decided, 'when the time is right.'
"That could work," Mike said, with a positive bounce to his voice. "We might look over in the U. of M. campus area. We would blend in well and I could afford a couple of hundred dollars a month. How about you?"
"No problem." I licked my lips and used the napkin to remove the remaining bar-be-que coating. "I'm off Friday. Can you get away for a while in the morning so that we could drive over to the campus and check out rentals?" I also figured out that I needed to buy a car, pronto.
"I can get away for the morning and the office manager can cover for me. But I've got to get back for lunch and happy hour because we'll be very busy. I'll grab the classifieds of the Commercial Appeal tomorrow and start looking for available rentals."
With that settled, we finished dinner. I also told Mike that I was going to buy a car. 'I'll need to do some laps tomorrow to burn off these calories, and we haven't even had dessert yet,' I decided. While waiting for the waiter to bring the dessert menu I scanned the dining room a little closer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my roomie. Brent and his 'friend' were seated across the room from us in a dark corner. Brent looked at me, raised his eyebrow with a 'gottcha' expression and smiled.
The waiter brought the dessert menu and Mike said, "Dave, why don't we order one bread pudding with the Jack Daniel's whiskey sauce and share?" He was unaware of the activity from the booth in the corner.
I nodded approval and said, "Sure, it sounds good to me." Mike ordered and gave the menu back to the waiter.
I saw Brent stand up and watched him motion with his head for me to follow him to the hall that led to the restrooms. Once he disappeared into the shadows, I told Mike, "I'm going to hit the head before dessert comes." He smiled at me as I rose from my chair and walked across the room.
Inside the men's room, I spotted Brent over at one of the three urinals. He really looked sharp with the dark gray suit, white shirt, and lighter gray tie. I walked over to a urinal next to him and, said "Surprise." I looked down, unzipped my fly and fished out my dick as Brent was finishing his duty.
He shook the last drops, adjusted himself and said, "Hey, buddy, when I suggested that you suck up to Ensign Cole, I didn't quite imagine you going out on a dinner date with him on the first night." He chuckled to himself as he walked over to the sinks and added, "But maybe sucking up has multiple meanings, in this case."
Since there was no one else in the room, I retorted by saying as I finished peeing, "Brent, I'm not going to bullshit you with some lame story. Let's just say that Mr. Cole and I have decided to have a private friendship off the base." I felt I was on safe ground saying this, knowing the shifty details of my roomie's activities after hours. I shook my cock, tucked it in, zipped up, and walked over the sinks as Brent was wiping his hands. 'It doesn't seem necessary to admit I'm gay,' I thought as I turned on the water, 'and it's pretty obvious I'm out on a date.'
"Well, then, I won't bullshit you about the man I'm with being my uncle."
"Brent, we both know that a sailor doesn't normally wear, what, a $2,000 Armani suit on shore leave? If you're coming back to the base tonight, why don't we have a conversation about all this?" I said as I dried my hands.
"I'll be back by 11 o'clock. Yeah, let's talk then. I think we need to clear the air. Why don't you head back to your table and I'll leave a minute afterwards. I don't think Cole knows me by sight, but I don't want to chance it. You cool that this is something we don't want to discuss with anyone else?" Brent asked with a slight frown.
I nodded and squeezed his arm. "What you do in your spare time doesn't mean diddly-squat to me and I don't gossip...especially about a roommate."
"Same here, roomie," he replied with a warm smile. "I hope we can get past this and work on becoming friends."
"That could happen. We'll talk later and figure things out," I said, as I left the men's room and returned to Mike at the table and the dessert. 'He seems sincere,' I decided, 'and I'll figure out how to play this out.'
"Hey, I thought you'd fallen in," Mike said looking up, smiling as I sat down. "I think you'll really like this," he remarked. The waiter had placed the warm, whiskey-sauced bread pudding in the middle of the table and had left two forks and two spoons, as well as 'Vous' wet naps and the bill. On the spare seat was a large 'doggie bag' that appeared to be full.
I smiled back and dug into my side of the pudding. The huge portion was just right for two men. Savoring the first mouthful, I nodded affirmatively and joined Mike in devouring the last part of this dinner, which was interesting on so many levels. "Let me pay for my share, Mike." I retrieved my wallet from my back pocket, pulled out some bills, and placed them on the tray with the check. "Whatever happens, I want us to be equals in this friendship."
As we discussed the bill and tip, Mike was reviewing the bill in detail. I looked up and noticed another couple joining Brent's booth. 'Holy shit,' I reacted when I recognized the now-familiar profile of LTJG DiMarco, dressed in a well-tailored, double-breasted blazer with an open-neck shirt and gray slacks. He had walked over to Brent with another distinguished, older man. They hadn't seen us...so far.
"Sounds fair to me." Mike pulled out a VISA card from his pocket and placed it with my money on the tip tray. When the waiter returned, he said, "Just split this down the middle, my half on the credit card." He looked at me and said, "My respect for you is expanding, Dave. In the civilian world, we'll be equals. On base, it'll just be a little charade for the Navy."
I was mentally limp after seeing Mr. DiMarco join Brent. 'Jeez, is what I'm seeing what I think it is?' I asked myself. However, this wasn't anything that I could resolve right now. 'Later, there's going to be a lot of questions answered.'
After we handled the final tipping routine, I stood and turned quickly to Mike's side so that both our backs were to the distant booth. "Thanks Mike. I loved the chance to wind down with you."
He nudged me with his shoulder and said, "Dave, I expect this to be the first of many evenings." We left the restaurant and Mike retrieved the car. It was a quiet drive back to Millington. Mike had not become aware of the dynamics that had occurred back at the restaurant.
We spoke a little more about our past and I slipped into a little doze. I felt the car stop and I opened my eyes to find Mike had stopped the car on a side street not far from the base's main entrance.
Mike pulled me over to the driver's side and brought his lips to mine. After a long kiss with me initiating a tongue probe, Mike pulled back and said, "Buddy, this has been the best day I've had in a long time."
I breathlessly said, "Me, too." I didn't add that this was the craziest day I've had in a long time as well. Looking up at him with my head nuzzled on his shoulder, I continued, "I don't want this day to be over."
"Sadly I don't have a time machine or a DeLorean, babe," He replied as he slowly stroked my thigh, "but we do have all the time in the world starting tomorrow."
'Babe,' I considered that term and decided I liked it...a lot. "I'm going to hold you to your promise, Ensign Cole."
"I always keep my promises, Airman Swenson." With that he kissed me on the forehead before I got out of the car.
Mike put the dark green Acura into gear and started back to the base, he to the BOQ and me, discreetly walking back alone, to my barracks room for a soul-searching conversation with Brent.