He was about five years younger than me, a junior at UCLA when we met, short and slim, with ruddy blond hair and blue eyes. Very cute.
But I never even thought about asking him out.
Maybe it's because I usually dated Asian guys, or gym rats like the Pentecostal Porn Star and the Thug on my Sausage List.
Or because I never saw him at the French Quarter, the Different Light, the gym, or anywhere in West Hollywood. He seemed to exist only in church.
But it's probably because John just didn't seem like the dating kind. He never sat with anyone; he never cruised anyone. At the coffee hour after church, he was all Attitude, staring into the crowd without making eye contact. He would talk to you about business, the church's financial goals and Food Bank program, but offered few personal details.
The only conversation we ever had on another topic: he came up to me one day and said "I hear you work for Muscle and Fitness."
"Just part time. I'm mostly in it to meet bodybuilders."
"Oh." He walked away.
In four years, I probably saw John 200 times, and said 200 words to him.
A few years later, around 1991, I was visiting a friend in the San Fernando Valley, and we went to the gym together. As I walked into the locker room, I saw John! He was just out of the shower, with a towel around his waist. He had bulked up a bit, with nice six-pack abs.
"John, how are you!" I exclaimed. "Small world!"
"Yeah, hi, Jeff." He caught me sneaking a peak at his rather small endowment, and quickly turned away.
As he got dressed, I got undressed. I told him about Beth Chaim Chadashim, and he told me about MCC and his job doing some kind of statistical analysis.
Then he said, in a rather odd, stilted voice, "I might go for... um... coffee... um... um... never mind." And he was gone.
He had been trying to ask me for a date!
I started wondering about John. What was his story? Why was he so standoffish? Or maybe I just didn't express any interest. Maybe there was a hidden gem at the All Saints MCC that I was too caught up in the big, loud gym guys to notice.
Too late now. I was in a relationship, and besides, I didn't even remember his last name.
But gay neighborhoods are small. Sooner or later, everyone you have ever met will show up again.
Every morning Barney prepared us a bodybuilder's breakfast of egg white omelets, seven-grain pancakes, or oatmeal infused with spinach and kale (try it). On special occasions, cinnamon buns.
But I never expected to see John!
"Jeff, this is my friend John from Seattle," he said. "He's here on vacation for a few days."
"Nice to meet you," I said, glancing at the kitchen table, where Yuri was drinking coffee with -- John from West Hollywood!
Not the slim, shy college kid I knew at the MCC. Middle aged, graying at the temples, a little craggy, and heavy muscled, a semi-pro. But umistakable!
"This is my other housemate, Jeff," Barney continued, his back to us.
"Small world," I managed.
"Oh, do you guys know each other?"
"Yeah, from West Hollywood."
"From the All Saints MCC!" Jack exclaimed.
"No." I sat down next to John, and we hugged. "I would have liked to, but it never happened."
Over breakfast John told us about being a shy, closeted college student going to his first gay venue, the All Saints MCC, but too self-conscious about his scrawny body and undersized endowment to approach a guy.
Who didn't have sex until 1988, when he was 23.
Who started weight training to increase his self-confidence, found a lover who dumped him for a celebrity, found another lover, and now was immersed in a community of gay bodybuilders and fans in Seattle.
Not bad for a guy who, a just few years before, couldn't even ask someone out for coffee.
Barney did a lot of sharing that weekend.
See also: The Pentecostal Porn Star and The Thug on My Sausage List