STORY: Stories about my adventures bartending in New Orleans in the late ’70s and early ’80s. To read them all, click #quarterstories.
Working in the bars in New Orleans, I learned one thing very quickly about myself—my type of man was Cajun.
Cajuns typically were dark-haired, with pale skin and green eyes. They came from an area outside of New Orleans and spoke an archaic version of French. Cajun Country started along the Mississippi River around Baton Rouge and went west along Interstate 10 across the whole southern part of Louisiana. I’d heard stories about the Cajuns—Cajuns who, during the Mardi Gras Season, would hold parties around a bonfire somewhere near Ville Platte and bring their horses. They could hold their liquor. As they partied, a few of them would usually end up stripped naked on horseback, standing on top of their horses, racing around the bonfire. I always wanted to go to one of those parties.
Max and Jason, and all the other bartenders, knew my type, and anytime a Cajun would come into the bar, would point him to me, saying “Go over and get your drink from Bobby, you’re gonna end up there anyway.” And he would.
One night, a Cajun named Matt came into the bar. I took one look and was totally captivated by him. He was sexy as hell. Dark hair, nice hairy arms, and a sweet smile on him. I could imagine him naked with a horse under him. He came and planted himself right at my station.
Matt and I had an immediate attraction to each other. He stayed for a long while, listening to Maxrod, the DJ in the booth, spinning sexy music for us. He left for a while and was back by 5 p.m. when I got off work. I took him home to Esplanade and we thrashed around all over each other in my bed for hours. We didn’t get much sleep, didn’t seem to need it. We refreshed each other. There was a natural fit and also an ease with each other.
Walking to breakfast, touching each other, the little tingles that go when you get a little close. He spent the night again, not much sleep, lots of sweat and I loved how my bed was being used. We woke up, hung around my place, went out to eat, then went back to bed again in the afternoon on my couch, with the big windows wide open with a cool breeze blowing over our naked bodies. We were immediately all over each other again. Couldn’t get enough of each other. Even the little things seemed to get us both going. Looking into each other eyes. Like soaking in my clawfoot tub. I didn’t have a shower and he had to fill up a handled pot for us to rinse each other off. I felt like we were a couple of cowboys taking care of each other. The attraction surprised both of us.
On Sunday, we woke up again in my bed, had brunch, and walked around the Quarter all afternoon, the whole time rubbing up against each other and staring into each other’s eyes. We were more than infatuated and not doing much to hide it. I had to work the next day and so did he. I walked him to his car, I could still smell him on me, yet we only hugged and shook hands. I watched him get in and close the door. I followed his car with my eyes, as he pulled away from the curb and headed over to I-10 for the road back to Baton Rouge.
I had never behaved this way before. I was smitten.
Matt and I fell into a weekend routine that went on getting stronger each time, the intense sex, just having him around. We’d been doing this now a couple of months. He would drive the eighty miles from Baton Rouge and spend the weekend in my bed. We went out when I wasn’t working and he hung out with his friends when I was. I showed him off to my friends and he showed me off to his. Each night, after work, he met me, and off we went to my place and my bed, to host a Cajun wrestling match.
Back at the loft, in my bed, both hard, roaring to go at each other, doing poppers. They were just hitting us when I handed them to him. I was on top and the bottle spilled. I was raring to go, but a split second hand-off tipped over the poppers, spilling them into his ear. Matt let out a scream of pain. I went from popper rush and wild sex-crazed maniac to rushing him into the kitchen where he sat naked, his ear burning, while I used a water bottle, squirting it into his ear to alleviate the pain.
I spent the rest of the night holding him, trying to comfort him as much as possible. We should have gone to the emergency room at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, but you only go there for gunshot wounds. Instead, we spent most of the night doing what we could to lessen the burning. Towards morning, it began to ease and we got some sleep, Matt curled up next to me, wanting to be held and me happy to hold him. He woke up exhausted, shuffled into his car, and drove back to Baton Rouge. I felt bad about the night, but I’d taken care of him and we’d gotten closer. I felt a shift. My infatuation with him was growing into something more. I couldn’t get him outta my head.
I called him later that week, checking on him to see how he was doing. More than that, I wanted to ride up and see him. He loved the idea, so I jumped on my Kawasaki 750 and headed up I-10 to Baton Rouge. It was a cold 80 miles. The ride through the swamps from Lake Ponchartrain to Baton Rouge was brutal. There was swamp fog all along the freeway. I had my leather jacket and boots on, but it was barely enough. I was almost to Matt’s exit when I got pulled over by a Louisiana State Trooper for speeding. I admitted it, telling the officer I was freezing my ass off, just trying to get home and get warm. He let me go.
Minutes later, I was at Matt’s place shivering. “Laying next to you is like laying next to a cold dead body!” Matt complained as he wrapped his naked body around mine. I was freezing. “But, I know just how to warm you up!”
He did. And I loved it. We were more careful with the popper bottle this time.
We spent the next day at his place playing around, eating, being lazy, having sex and just being together. I wasn’t sure where these feelings would go, but I liked them. I wanted to stay another night, but I had to leave. I had to jump back on the bike before sunset and headed home. It had been another sweet time with him, and, for the first time, it was at his place. We kissed, as I left this time.
I stopped for gas somewhere just before the bridges over the swamps started. I was feeling good and warm from being with him. I still had his smell all over me. It was like he was in my leather jacket. While waiting to pay, I was looking at a postcard rack by the cash register and found one I liked. It said “Louisiana is for Lovers” and had a big heart on it. I bought it, along with a stamp, addressed it to Matt right then and there, and mailed it. Then, I got back on the road to New Orleans.
We spoke a few times during the week. As the weekend drew near, he called and said he wasn’t going to make it. He had friends coming to town. That was ok. I had to work anyway and he’d call me. I’d hear from him later that weekend. But, then I didn’t.
By Tuesday, after no call, I decided to call him and see what was up. He was cool on the phone, unsure if he’d make it to New Orleans on the next weekend or not. My intuition kicked in. Something was off. This wasn’t the guy who I’d left naked in bed wanting more. It made me uneasy. Even though it had only been a short time, I’d gotten used to having him around. I was missing him and wondering what was going on. Had he met someone else? He was hot, so that was always a possibility. But, so soon?
That Friday night, he showed up at my station, smiling and drinking shots. I got busy and, at some point, he was gone, as he usually was. Things seemed back to normal. Except that, at 5 a.m., after I got off work, he didn’t come back to the bar.
I sat by the fireplace with Jason drinking. Matt was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t coming at all.
“It was that goddamn postcard. I knew it.” I growled.
“What postcard?” Jason asked.
“I sent him this stupid postcard after spending the night with him which had the word “love” on it. I know goddamn well I spooked him, like one of them Cajun horses.”
Jason looked at me, a bit worried. “Cajun Horses? You’re drunk.”
Jason wasn’t going to understand any of this and now I was pissed at myself, realizing what I’d done. I didn’t just mention the word “love.” I had sent it to him in writing. Like in big ol’ neon letters. I had mailed it to him, showing my feelings of “love.” I wasn’t sure if that was truly what I felt at all, but I knew this was the reason he had gone all weird on me. I knew he wasn’t coming back. I was pissed at myself and depressed and drunk.
I called up my friends Mo and Steve, who lived on Chartres St. and were usually awake at that hour. They answered the phone and I asked if I could come over. I was upset and needed to be around friends to talk. I didn’t want to go back to my empty bed yet. He’d been in it too much with me. I plowed my way through this invitation and made it to their place in about 10 minutes. I rang their bell and they buzzed me in. Then, I was on their couch and they were looking at me with worried faces. They gave me a couple of drinks and asked what was wrong. This was not the me they knew. They were patient. I spilled out my guts to them. I told them everything that had gone on between me and Mark—especially about the postcard.
“What the fuck was I thinking…I really like this guy…he wasn’t just another trick…I wasn’t expecting him to marry me or anything. I just wanted to let him know that…that…I really liked him.” I moped and groaned, going on and on. I was going in circles. I was now embarrassing myself.
They tried to comfort me. It was late and I felt like an asshole for keeping them up with my confessional. I didn’t want to bother them anymore, so I left and stumbled home. Along the way, I decided that I wouldn’t chase Matt. I was done. Sad, but done.
The bed was lonely. I became depressed. Matt never called. I didn’t either. For about a month, I didn’t go out much, except to work. My mood began to wear on all my friends. Finally, one Sunday, Bobby and Mo, trying to get me back in my groove, convinced me to go out with them to beer bust.
Mo was especially attentive to me. He was concerned. I found it very sweet, him buying me drinks and feeding me bumps of coke. It was nice to be with friends again, just having fun. This was the first easy night out for me in a long time. I’d survive.
“Honey, I’ve got something to tell you,” Mo said sheepishly, staring at me. I had a feeling it was news about Matt. Probably, he was with someone else now. I’d already assumed that. It would be okay. I figured Matt moved on to Houston because a lot of Baton Rouge guys would go there if they got tired of New Orleans. But, then, Mo got all teared up.
“Honey, you know the night you came over to our house? When you were really upset about Matt, and me and Steve sat with you in the living room, and you told us how hurt and stupid you felt? Steve and I were very upset too.”
“I know, I appreciated it, and I was sorry to keep you up,” I said. “I was the one being stupid, Mo.”
“No, no, honey, I’m the bad friend.” He hesitated. I looked at him quizzically. “Well…I have to just tell you this…” he paused. “Matt was in the bedroom that night and heard everything you said.”
I stared at Mo in shock, speechless, for a couple of minutes.
“Oh, honey, please don’t hate me!” He begged, talking rapid-fire, trying to explain, “We had met up at Jewel’s and he wanted to fuck, so, we took him home. We had no idea you felt the way you did about him or that you’d come over. When you called, we didn’t know what to say. You were so upset. We didn’t know what to do, except to let you come over to talk. We told him to stay in the bedroom.”
“Matt was there? In your bedroom, while I was carrying on?” I replied in disbelief. It was slowly registering. “He heard every word I said?”
“Yes, honey, every word you said.”
“Even the postcard?” I was stunned. “That must have shocked him.”
“Yes, honey. Especially the postcard. Matt and I both cried after you left. Then, he left, too.” Mo said apologetically, trying not to upset me more. “Steve was pissed at me for pushing to bring Matt home and we feel real bad.”
Mo’s confession was a lot to digest, but, for some reason, the image of Matt crying had somewhat of a soothing effect on me. I stared at Mo. I was pissed. But, then, slowly I thought, “What the fuck! I’d communicated what I felt to Matt. He got it. He just couldn’t handle it.”
And, then, suddenly, I looked straight at Mo and started to laugh. I don’t know why, but the whole thing hit me as funny. It all seemed so ridiculous. Mo and Steve caught, sitting uncomfortably in their own apartment. Matt trapped in their bedroom, having to listen to me go on and on. Mo trying hard to be sincere, trying to take care of me, all the while, feeling guilty as hell. I’d spilled my guts out to them, meanwhile ruining what would no doubt have been a great three-way that I interrupted. Matt was a hot fuck.
Whatever spell Matt had over me dissipated. I guess I could have blamed Mo, as I knew he had known how I felt about Matt before that night, because we worked together. But, where would that get me? I just needed to put the whole thing behind me and move on. So, slightly high, and still laughing, shaking my head, I staggered off the stool and out of the bar, getting away from my friends and the whole idea of “LOVE”—that four-letter word that one dare not speak to a hot gay man when you both are into each other, or apparently even dare write on a postcard.
A couple of Friday nights later, I was busy bartending, when I looked up and there, sitting square at my station on a barstool was Matt.
“How you doin’?” I asked, acting like whatever had happened between us had passed, like a thunderstorm. I figured we’d just ignore what had happened. Not much to say, we sure as hell weren’t going to be talking about love.
He stared straight at me. “Nobody wants to serve me in any of the bars,” he whimpered, head down and tears welling up in his eyes. “I’m really sorry, Bobby! I just got scared. Then, I felt so bad hearing what you said that night, sitting in their bedroom when I shoulda been in yours – I’d felt you and I felt all the same things. I didn’t know what to do or what was happening with you and me. Now, your friends hate me. I don’t want you to hate me. None of them will serve me a beer at Jewel’s or even at the Bourbon Pub. They ignore me. Mo even turns his back on me.”
“Mo turns his back on you?” That was rich. No one had even told me that they had seen Matt in town.
“Yeah, I really…didn’t mean…” he replied, stumbling over his words. “Anywhere I go here, I get looks and sneers from the bartenders. I miss you.”
I bet he did. I knew what it felt like. I came around the bar and held him. He was sobbing by that point and wanted to make up. I told him I could never hate him, I’d take care of it with my friends. That would be a fun talk.
“Can I go home with you?” he asked, looking me square in the eyes.
“You sure you want to?” I asked, “You’re sure?”
“Oh, yes, I need it. Please!”
”Ok, be here at five and we’ll meet up.”
He was early and dutifully sat on a barstool until I got off. We went back to my loft, made out like before, and then fucked hard all night. It felt good.
He got up early and left, heading back to Baton Rouge. I didn’t linger looking down Esplanade as he left. The spark had gone. I’d spent all the emotions he had stirred in me. That dissipated overnight. I guess I’d just given him a great revenge fuck. But, it was nothing more. That was sad. I had so much wanted him to not be just another hookup.
I did as I promised and went around to my bartender friends to get the curse that had been cast on him lifted. It wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be. A lot of them didn’t like Matt. Mo was the most adamant…he didn’t ever want to serve Matt again.
“Mo, you tried to fuck him. You have to do this.”
“Honey, it was his fault. He wanted it. He agreed to it!” he replied. “I don’t think Steve will agree.”
“Ok, honey, as long as you’re not hurting anymore.” Mo finally acquiesced, the hurt I had felt was healing. I managed to lift the curse off of Matt. He was allowed back in the French Quarter.
I didn’t see a lot of Matt after that. I’d spy him against a back wall or meat rack or I’d run into him and we’d hug or kiss and sometimes stand near each other like we were trying to stir the embers, but the fire was gone. I later heard he had moved and was partying in Houston.
It was too bad. I’d think about him now and then walking down Bourbon after work. There had been something special between us. If I felt this way again with someone, should I hide it? I was questioning a lot.
Instead, I let the thought of him go and Matt became another Quarter Story.