We sat on the patio all the way through Joe's first beer and about half my large cup of tea. By then, even though it was cool out, sitting directly in the sun was getting hot so we went indoors. The bar is set up such that the whole front opens up in the summer so you can sit in the cool of the interior and still look directly out onto the street. We sat there and eventually a few older men, of which we have passing acquaintance joined our table and we did what old people do everywhere - compare doctors, compare illnesses and gossip. It was a nice couple of hours.
What struck me, on the way home, was how very public that had all been. It continues to be public because I'm writing this right now, here on this blog. We sat right on the street, out in the sun, watching people go by. Such an extraordinarily ordinary thing to do. Except it wasn't.
When we first moved to the city, no gay bars had clear windows. None had patios. Some of them were entered by back lane ways. Most of them had the sense of 'secret society' or 'private club' about them. I remember having the sense of leaving the world behind at the door. Leaving the hate, and the fear, and the prejudice, at the door. There was a sense of security, that we'd found a place of welcome - from the patrons, not necessarily the servers. Most bars back then were owned by straight people and we were often served with disdain - our money was good but we were not. Even so, most of us could ignore that as the price you paid to have space, to have a place to simply 'be' in the world.
I could not have imagined then, all those years ago, that one day we'd be sitting on a patio, on the street, having a drink and feeling no fear. I'd made friends with that fear, I believe that the recognition that the world was full of people who wanted to hurt me - kept me safe, kept Joe safe. I thought through everything we did and everywhere we went and everyone we let into our lives. I had a job that I could lose in an instant - and not just a job, I had a passion for the work that I did, a passion that is still there, still vibrant. I didn't want that ripped from me.
But I thought of none of that while we sat at the one table on the patio. I thought of none of that while we talked with a small group of old men at a table that overlooked the street. None of it. I just enjoyed the sense of being 'out' in every way that one could be 'out'.
It wasn't until we were on our way home that I realized what it meant to be free. I realized that though there are still those who wish us ill, still those who believe that we should die or be put to death, even with all that, there are moments, now, where it's possible to simply be ... out in the sun.