I write this article in regards to June being Gay Pride Month. This is a story I wrote a long time ago. I wrote it in the summer of 2007 when I first met Shane Lamb. The story is entitled “Shawn Lambert” and it depicts my own first kiss with a man. Here’s to you Shane. Here’s to the man that changed my life completely. I hope you all enjoy.
I’m sitting; legs crossed, and am looking out the window of my favorite bookstore in Redlands. I have a medium black coffee in one hand, and a book by Jonathan Handler in the other. The sun is beating down at me, and that is when I see him.
“Hello.” He says quietly.
I look up. “Hi.” I say.
“What are you reading?” He asks.
“Oh, this?” I flip the book over, “it’s Adverbs,” I tell him.
“Not too good with grammar, are you?”
“Oh, no, no, actually, it’s a vignette of short stories.” I chuckle, and stare at him.
He’s wearing a white collar shirt, and khaki shorts. Very casual.
“I’m Shawn Lambert,” he says, and extends his right hand out to mine.
I shake it, and say, “I’m Derrick Kowalski.”
His blue-green eyes sparkle under the sunlight. Shawn smiles and says, “Is it any good?”
“Funny, actually, it’s about a group of people finding love in all the wrong places, and somehow all these stories may, or may not be connected.” I tell him.
“I see.” Shawn says. “And how about you?” He asks.
“What about me?” I ask, perplexed.
“Found love in any wrong place?”
I don’t know what to say. A moment passes by, and I sigh. “No, actually, I haven’t.”
Shawn moves closer to the counter, “Well, I have to go, I’m driving back to L.A., so I need to get moving, or otherwise traffic’s going to get bad.”
I walk with him, and wait for him to buy his book. We step out into the parking lot, where he goes to his car. “So, what are you doing Saturday?” He asks.
I shake my head, shrug, and reply, “Nothing, why?”
“You want to go out for dinner?” He asks. Shawn’s voice is playful. He’s done this before, I gather.
I breathe in. My heart races, and I say, “Sure.”
“OK, it’s a date, then.” Shawn smiles.
I, too, smile, and nod, and the plan is set for Saturday. Three days away, and I will be going on a first date with a man. And as I watch him drive out of the parking lot I am left alone wondering about the complexity of this encounter. I’ve known about my emotional turmoil all my life, but never divulged my personal feelings to anyone, not family or close friends. I’ve always known I am gay, but never dared put a name to my emotional, and physical attraction to men. But now, on Saturday I will have to confront: myself, a past I’ve shunned, and a future which might be waiting with open arms.
*** *** ***
Saturday comes faster than I thought it would. I am excited, a bit anxious, but I am not going to bolt and run the other way. I wait for Shawn as planned at the parking lot of Ikasa Sushi Restaurant off Redlands Boulevard, at six o’clock. I’m wearing Jeans, and a long-sleeve white, and green shirt. I’ve sprayed on a lot of cologne, and hope he’s not allergic to it.
I see his black Jetta pulling up the parking lot. I fix my hair quickly, tuck my shirt in again, and step outside. He gets out and smiles as soon as he sees me. “Hey, you.” Shawn says. He puts his sunglasses in his shirt pocket. “Have you been waiting long?” He asks.
“Uh, no…” I say. I lie. In fact, I got here forty minutes ago.
“Well, good, then.” He reaches out to me and hugs me for a moment, and we walk to the front door of the restaurant. Shawn looks at me and says, “You smell good.”
I chuckle, and he opens the door, allowing me to step inside the nicely decorated restaurant. Inside we are greeted by a kindly old woman. She wears a kimono, her hair is up and pinned together by two large wooden chopsticks. She smiles, bows, grabs two menus and says, “Welcome to Ikasa, this way, please.” She walks toward the middle of the room, and lays the menus down on top of the table. Ours is the third table in the middle of the room underneath the large hanging lamp. We thank her and moments later we are ordering our drinks, appetizers, and an array of sushi, sure to give us mercury poisoning.
The conversation goes somewhat like this, give or take a few silent pauses.
“So, I’m glad you accepted my invite to have dinner with me.” Shawn says.
“To be honest, I’m surprised I came out to eat dinner with you.” It’s time I am more honest with myself, and Shawn. “I don’t usually eat dinner with men alone. Gay or straight.”
My forwardness stuns him, I guess. “Straight or gay, my dear friend,” Shawn says, “regardless of my, or your sexual orientation—I wanted to have dinner with you.”
“I’m not used to it, that’s all.” I say to him, shrugging.
He puts his chopsticks down, “I take it you’ve never gone out on a date, or done anything remotely sexual with a man, have you?”
I gulp my food down. “You’re right, I never have.” I stare at him.
Shawn asks, “How old are you?”
“Twenty-three.” I say sheepishly, as if my age is a detriment, and play with my sashimi. I turn to look at his beautiful eyes. “You?” I ask him quietly.
“I’m almost twenty-nine.” He says but doesn’t overanalyze it, and sips on his green tea.
“I came back from the East Coast,” I tell him, “so I’m settling down again. I grew up here but now that I’m not in school, or volunteering, my life feels more or less like it’s on a crash course with a destiny I can’t control.” And, I on the other hand, analyze everything.
“You believe in destiny?” Shawn asks.
“Maybe. Perhaps. I don’t know. I believe in choices.” I tell him.
“So, you think this is a choice, perhaps, and now it’s destiny that we’re here eating dinner amongst this group of strangers?” Shawn continues to eat.
“I think that this,” I look around, “us two sitting here, all of this is meant to be for some reason or another, whether or not you or I both understand that at the moment.”
“Well, I don’t believe in fate, but I’m glad I met you.” Shawn says.
*** *** ***
Dinner is excellent, and so is dessert. We share a green tea ice cream with a slight blueberry drizzle, and more hot tea. After we eat dinner we walk outside to hang out in the now nearly empty parking lot. It is three hours later and it’s dark outside. The clouds are opaque, and a slight gust of wind sends chills up my back. It may be only April 28, but the weather feels as if it’s late November.
“I had a great time,” Shawn says.
“Me, too.” I tell him, and walk to my car. He follows me. I turn to look at him, and press my back up against the driver’s door. “I’m glad we met,” I say to him.
He comes closer. He is taller than me, Shawn, and very handsome. His hair is wavy, short, and brown, but his smile is perhaps his greatest asset. His perfectly white teeth shimmer under the moonlight, and his lips part suddenly. “I want to kiss you,” Shawn says to me.
I look into his eyes. Many thoughts rush through my head: Should I do it? Should I stall? What will everyone think of me? What will my family say? What will happen if my Church friends find out? Am I going to Hell? I close my eyes. This is it! This is the moment I can turn around and get in my car, diss Shawn and get out while it’s still early. No harm done. Or, I can face the fact that I am a gay man, and that nothing I do now or later will ever disprove that, and that no other moment like this may come my way in a long time. Take it or leave it. The moment is now.
“I want to kiss you, too.” I say, and lean closer to him.
I can feel his hands around my back, and his weight pressing me against the car. I can also feel his hot breath against my skin as he leans down and kisses me. I love the sensation of his five o’clock shadow stubble on my face. Our lips touch and glide against each other. His lips feel like two small pillows, and my mouth opens up slightly. It is a most perfect first kiss. My hands go around his back, and I caress his body. It’s an innate moment, this first kiss between me and another man. It’s something I’m never going to forget.
I close my eyes and let the moment progress, and as he kisses me I feel weak at the knees. His mouth is wide opened and I can taste his saliva, and it tastes like bubblegum. My tongue caresses his, and for a moment I exhale, and moan in sheer pleasure. Who knew a kiss would bend my perception of reality? Oh, but it is only a kiss, and just a kiss between two men. Nothing more, but purely, nothing less. It is perfect in every way, shape and form.
He runs his right hand through my hair, kisses me once more, and says, “Are you OK?”
I look up at him and nod, “I am.”
He laughs a bit, “Oh, Derrick, I want to see you again, and again.” He runs his hand down my arm and I let him. I want to let him do everything, and all.
“Me, too.” I say.
We say our good-byes and confirm our next dinner date. I watch him drive out of the restaurant’s parking lot, and I wait in my car with the lights on, and a faint melody playing in the background. It is then that it hits me: I just kissed a man! I had my very first kiss with a man! And I love it. I love it!
I drive off and head home. On the way out, around the corner I see a mural painted on a wall. The wall belongs to the property of a church. It is a depiction of Jesus Christ and all the people of Earth. Jesus Christ has his hands stretched out, and he is crying, presumably for the sins of the world. At that moment I wonder if he, wherever Jesus might be crying for me, too? And why? Because I kissed a man? Or because I’m gay, and am going to Hell?
Either way: I’m gay, I’m here in front of this church, and as far as I know—I’m not going to Hell. I’m not ashamed of what happened, in fact, it’s okay, and I’m feeling great. What I thought would happen didn’t, and now all I can think of is Shawn Lambert and our kiss. That magical kiss between us. I suppose that years from now I’ll look back at this moment and contemplate on what it means, and perhaps then I will chuckle. Was it fate that brought us together or simply a choice that made a difference? Either way, it’s all said, and it’s been done. A kiss is a kiss, and I’ve kissed a man.
I press the gas pedal and speed away down the road, and enter the freeway. I’m going to drive around for a while, I think, and perhaps in an hour or two I’ll head back home. But for now I’m going to drive and think about one thing…that kiss…that wonderful, life-changing moment between two men.
No one may ever understand, or ask if being me is okay, or even care. No one may ever come up to me and pat me on the back for choosing to be me, all of me, and not a man who lies about a portion of my life. No one may ever come up to me and tell me that they’re happy for me, or my potential lover or partner, but that is okay. As for me, I’ll always hold Shawn dear in my heart forever. Fate or no fate involved, I’m glad I said yes to dinner with a man named Shawn Lambert, for he is the one man that changed my life entirely.