Club Sapien

Club Sapien

Unexpected Halloween Treat

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

Halloween…the time for ghosts, goblins, and way too much sugar. At least, that had been my experience every October 31st for the last twenty-four years. It looked like this Halloween was going to be no different, except for one thing: this year, I would be visited by said ghosts and goblins and I would be supplying said sugar overdoses. I had just completed my B.Ed. degree, had just started my first teaching job, and had just moved into my first house. Everything was new and everything was exciting. I had spent way too much time and way too much money turning myself into a vampire and making my front lawn and entryway as scary as possible. I had skeletons hanging from the eaves, ghosts floating above the sidewalk, bats in front of the windows, and a coffin standing in front of the door. I had black cloth stapled to the door frame and coffin, so that when I answered to door I had to step through the coffin and open the coffin lid to hand out the treats. I even found a fake grave where the top flew open every thirty seconds and a zombie would sit up and groan. It scared the hell out of at least half the kids and several of the parents too. It was great.

I had so much fun. The evening had gone completely according to plan and exceeded my greatest expectations. Okay, so maybe I’m a little nerdy, but making Halloween special for the kids made it special for me. Things had pretty much wound down by nine o’clock, and I was about to shut everything down when my phone rang. Since I wasn’t expecting any calls, I checked the number display. I didn’t recognize it, but it was a local number, so I answered it.

“Hey, Aaron?” a voice asked.

“Yes?” I replied.

“You probably don’t remember me, but this is Jody…Jody Foster,” the voice replied.

I had no problem remembering who Jody Foster was. He was the quiet, skinny, five-foot-nothing king of the nerds who got tormented daily throughout junior and senior high school. I can’t imagine what life was like for him during those years, but he stuck it out. In fact, he didn’t just stick it out, he walked the halls with his head held high in spite of it all.

I stepped in to save his ass more times than I care to remember. He always thanked me and always ran off. It was weird because he would look the bullies right in the eye, but he seldom made eye contact with me. It almost seemed like he was more afraid of me than them. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, he wouldn’t talk to me, or make an effort to get to know me. Looking back, I guess I never made a very determined effort to get to know him either. I should have.

“Oh my God, Jody!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t heard from you since high school. How’s it going?”

“Good…it’s going good,” he replied.

Considering that back in school, he had only spoken to me when he felt he absolutely had to, I had to ask, “So what made you decide to call me after all these years?”

“Well, this may sound weird, but I’ve been handing out candy for the last three hours and a little guy came to the door who reminded me of me when I was his age,” he replied. “As he reached the sidewalk, some bigger kid suddenly grabbed him and tried to take his Halloween bag. Then, just as suddenly, another kid stepped in, stood up for him and saved him from being victimized. Just like you used to do for me back in school. I guess it just brought back some old memories, so I decided it might be cool to see how you were doing. Hear your voice again, maybe.”

“I remember those days. High school was a bitch,” I responded as I quickly thought back. “It’s good to hear from you. I often wondered what you were up to. Hey, look, I was just about to shut things down here. You want to meet for a drink or something? That is, if you don’t mind having a drink with a vampire.”

“Yeah, I’d like that, as long as you don’t mind having a drink with a short zombie,” he said with a laugh. “Anywhere in particular?”

“I don’t hit the bars very often, so you name the place and I’ll meet you there,” I replied.

“How about Club Sapien, then?” he suggested.

“Sure,” I answered before asking him, “Where is it?”

He kind of chuckled and replied, “It’s on the corner of 11th street and 10th avenue S.W.”

“Okay, see you there in about an hour,” I said.

“Perfect,” he replied.

About 45 minutes later, as I was driving down 10th avenue, I spotted a large group of ghosts, vampires, zombies, aliens, and anything else you could name, mulling around on the sidewalk. I figured this must be the place, and as I looked more closely I saw the sign for the club and pulled up in front. However, to my surprise, as I walked up to the door, I couldn’t help but notice a large rainbow flag fluttering in the breeze in front of the club.

My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, I’m meeting him at a gay bar?’ Now, don’t get me wrong, although I’ve spent the last ten years avoiding them, I have no problem with gay people. I just prefer to see them at a distance. Seeing them close up scares the living hell out of me. You see, at a distance I’m safe. Up close means I might get to know them. Getting to know them could complicate my life in ways I have managed to avoid even thinking about, never mind dealing with.

So now, here I was, faced with a major decision. Do I go in and meet Jody, or do I run for my car and get the hell away from here? I stood there for at least five minutes thinking it through. I wasn’t afraid someone would see me. No one would be able to recognize me with my makeup anyway. But I was afraid. In fact, I was actually shaking. And no, I don’t have some weird form of homophobia. It’s much worse than that.

Finally, I thought about Jody waiting for me. He had seemed so happy and excited when I suggested we go out for a drink. I had never let him down before and I decided this was not the time to start, so I said to myself, ‘Fuck it. One time won’t kill me,’ and walked up to the door. I showed them my ID, paid the cover charge, got my wristband and walked in. I was again greeted by everything from zombies and vampires to a very cute young guy in a Speedo. I think he was supposed to be Thomas Finchum.

Oh shit, I just said ‘very cute young guy’, didn’t I…fuck. See, I told you getting close to them was bad. I was just about ready to bolt for the door when a short, excited zombie waved me over to a table near the bar. I guess I wasn’t that hard to recognize after all. If I bolted now I would really hurt his feelings. Unfortunately, I was one of the few guys I knew of who gave a rat’s ass for Jody’s feelings, so I slowly made my way over to his table and gave him my best ‘glad to be here’ smile.

“Hi, it’s good to see you,” I said.

“It’s good to see you too,” he said with a big smile as he jumped off his stool to give me a quick hug.

“I wasn’t sure you would show up,” he added.

“Well, it’s always good to catch up with old friends,” I responded.

“You see me as an old friend?” he questioned.

“Yeah, why not?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I just never thought I had friends in school. I know you saved my ass a hundred times, but we never hung out. I mean, like friends.”

“You kept running off every time I spoke to you,” I said.

“Yeah, I guess,” he replied, his smile fading before reappearing again as he said, “You never exactly chased after me though.”

“No, I didn’t,” I responded. “We both should have made more of an effort, I guess. But that’s in the past. What are you up to today?”

“Right now, I’m drinking a lime cooler,” he replied. “What about you?”

“Lime cooler sounds good. You want another one?” I asked and he nodded.

“Be right back,” I said and I headed for the bar to grab two lime coolers.

When I started back towards the table, I noticed that he was looking at me rather intently. I felt like I was being thoroughly checked out and I have to admit, it gave me a rather eerie feeling. Not a feeling of repulsion or anger, just eerie.

“Thanks,” he said as I sat down and handed him his drink.

“So, besides drinking lime coolers, what are you up to these days?” I asked.

“I have a web-based advertising firm. We do websites, online advertising, television commercials, and so on for different corporations,” he replied.

“Cool,” I replied. “What is it?”

“Infinite Imagery,” he replied.

I just stared at him for a second. I knew enough about Infinite Imagery to know that it was one of the fastest growing advertising firms in Calgary, with offices opening soon in Vancouver and Montreal. In fact, I had worked for them the last three summers to help put myself through university.

He started to grin at me after a few seconds. “Surprised?” he questioned.

“Actually no,” I replied with a grin.

“Thank you,” he responded. “Most people are.”

“Why? I read Bill Gates’ quote, ‘Be nice to nerds, you’ll probably end up working for one,’ or something like that,” I said, laughing. “Actually, I worked in the downtown Calgary office the last three summers. You were my boss and I didn’t even know it.”

“You insinuating I was a nerd?” he questioned with a grin.

“No, of course not,” I replied, grinning and blushing a little at the same time.

“Well you weren’t paying attention then,” he said, laughing. “I was probably the ultimate nerd…short, glasses, painfully shy, high marks, no friends.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring all that back up again,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it. I couldn’t give a shit now,” he responded. “High school is like a fart in the wind…it’s happens, it stinks, and it’s gone in a flash.”

“No shit, and you probably have half the assholes from high school mowing your lawn or collecting your garbage now,” I said, laughing.

He just grinned at me and asked, “So how do you like teaching?”

“How do you know I’m teaching?” I asked.

“Just because I slipped off your radar doesn’t mean you slipped off mine. You may not have realized you were working for me, but I did,” he replied.

“Okay,” I responded before changing the subject back to my teaching. I wasn’t sure where he was going, but I was fairly sure I didn’t want to go there. We carried on chatting about teaching and anything and everything over the next hour. As we were sitting there, I began to realize how much I had missed out on by not getting to know him back in school. He was funny, articulate, interesting, and very easy to talk to. I found myself thoroughly enjoying every minute of our time together.

As we were chatting, I was also not unaware of what was going on around us, either. The fact that 90% of the people were dressed up for Halloween was an added interest factor. However, as I watched everyone, I couldn’t help but notice how relaxed they all were with one another. They were chatting, laughing, teasing and having a great time. There was the odd quick kiss, but nothing unusual. I also noticed that most of them greeted each other with a hug, not a handshake. After a while, I began to realize there was something special about this place…or perhaps something special about the people in it. There was a feeling of belonging, of community, of oneness I would not have seen in any other club in the city. I was being treated to a unique experience. An experience I was beginning to realize I might only get in an upscale gay nightclub. What I noticed the most, however, was that I was up close, closer than I had ever let myself be, or ever wanted to be, and it wasn’t all that scary.

Suddenly, the music got louder—seriously louder. I glanced at my watch and saw it was 11 o’clock. A young DJ was bouncing and moving to the music in the DJ booth and people were rapidly filling the dance floor. I could actually feel my body vibrate to the beat, the bass was so intense. I looked over at Jody and he just grinned.

“We’ve just switched from dinner club to nightclub,” he yelled at me.

“Yeah, I noticed,” I yelled back.

We sat finishing our drinks. We now had to lean in close to each other and shout to be heard. At one point, Jody put his hand on my arm as he leaned in to say something. I was surprised…I didn’t flinch. We got another drink and sat for about five minutes, watching everyone dancing. The young DJ was really fun to watch. He was so into the music and what he was doing. It was obvious he loved every minute of it. As I was watching him and the people dancing, Jody tapped my arm and motioned towards the dance floor.

As suddenly as the music got loud and hit me, reality hit me. What the hell was I doing? One minute I’m at home happily handing out Halloween treats to little kids and the next I’m in a gay nightclub, actually thinking about getting up and dancing with another guy. I thought back to my initial response when I arrived. At a distance I was safe. Up close meant I might get to know them. Getting to know them could complicate my life in ways I felt I really wasn’t ready for.

But for some reason beyond my control, I smiled, took his hand, and we walked towards the dance floor. For two hours I danced with another guy and had more fun than I think I’ve ever had in my life. For two hours I didn’t care if I was at a safe distance or not. As I looked into Jody’s smiling face, I realized that for the first time in a decade, I felt at peace. I also realized I wanted to keep looking into those smiling eyes for a very long time.

It was after 1:00 when Jody pointed to his watch, smiled, and shrugged. Reluctantly, I followed him off the dance floor and outside.

“I can’t even come close to explaining how much fun tonight has been,” he said as he wrapped his arms around me.

“Neither can I,” I said as I completed the hug. “I haven’t had such a good time in years, maybe ever.”

He just rested his head against my shoulder for a minute or so. When he pulled back, I looked into his eyes and my face drew closer to his. When our lips met, I knew I was ready. I was ready to go wherever this night was going to take me. When we broke the kiss, the smiles on our faces couldn’t have been bigger. We stood there, my arms resting on his shoulders with my hands linked behind his neck, and his hands on my waist, just looking into each other’s eyes.

“You know, I’ve loved you ever since you kicked Robbie Torrent’s ass back in grade eight,” he said.

“I wish I’d known that back in grade eight,” I responded.

“No, you weren’t ready back then,” he said quietly. “That’s why I always ran.”

“You’re right,” I replied. “I wouldn’t have been ready. Hell, I wasn’t ready a few hours ago.”

“Yeah, you were,” he said. “Or we wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation right now. You just needed a reason.”

When he said that, I realized that probably since grade eight, there had been a special place in my heart reserved just for Jody Foster. That’s why I protected him throughout junior and senior high. That’s why I was willing to go against all my instincts and insecurities and walk into a gay nightclub to have a drink with him. That’s why I took his hand and led him onto the dance floor.

“Look how many years we wasted,” I said.

“You know, I don’t think we wasted any years,” he replied. “I think there was a time meant for us. Any sooner or any later…it wouldn’t have worked.”

“Well it worked for me,” I responded, giving him another quick kiss.

“I know,” he said quietly. “I felt it when I touched your arm.”

I glanced at my arm where he had touched me and realized I could still almost feel his hand there. “Yeah,” I said with a smile.

“Call me tomorrow?” he asked.

“As soon as I get home from school,” I replied.

One more quick kiss and he was running to his car. When he got there, he turned, smiled, blew me a kiss and waved before getting in and driving off. I stood there for several minutes just staring in the direction he had driven. I smiled.

Tomorrow was going to be a good day in spite of the fact that it was going to start in exactly six hours, or four by the time I got my makeup off. I’ll be half asleep all day and my kids will be wired on sugar. Should be fun.

After I got home, I flopped down on my bed and thought about the whole evening. A kid stood up to a bully and protected another kid from having his Halloween bag stolen, a simple act of kindness. He would never know or probably even believe what he set in motion by doing that. He would never know that his actions unleashed a sequence of events that led to one sad, insecure twenty-four year old finally admitting the truth that he had spent half a lifetime denying. He would never know he had given me the Halloween treat of treats…the chance to accept and be happy with who I was…and to be loved because of who I was.

You see, I never had a problem with gay people. I just had a problem with being one.

A very special thanks to Azy for his time and hard work editing this story for me.