A REAL PLUS

by Izzy Lennon

Tuesday night, and springtime had finally arrived in New York City. And, oh, what a beautiful night it was. As Tyrone walked through Chelsea, he couldn't help but think of Tennyson's poem, "Locksley Hall," and its line "In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." Ty smiled as he watched all the passing couples, holding hands. It seemed that every gay man on Eighth Avenue was paired up. Every gay man, that was, except him.

Ty wanted someone to share his life with, but he wasn't exactly, actively looking. He thought that, perhaps if he frequented the right bars, he might find a man. He was fooling himself. No one ever meets "Mr. Right" at a bar. Besides, he was not the type of guy that guys in gay bars, went for. Rather than possessing a gym body and a designer wardrobe, he was blessed with a tall, lanky body and poor eyesight.

He continued his stroll to 14th Street, to catch the M14 bus, home to the East Village. As he waited for his bus, the new edition of The Village Voice was being delivered. Tyrone grabbed a copy and placed it under his arm. Once on the bus, he turned to the personals, which he thought were always good for a laugh. One ad caught his eye. It read

"GBM, D/D free, 29, tall and thin, seeks similar for enjoying springtime in NYC and possible LTR. I love poetry, traveling, and micro brewed beer. I'm really nearsighted, so U Brothas with glasses U are a real plus!"

The ad brought a smile to his face. Never in all his 31 years, did he think, he would ever reply to a personal ad, but he did. He and his date decided to meet on Saturday night at the clock at Grand Central Station. He arrived a few minutes early and saw a familiar face. It was Jabari, the friendly young guy from Apartment 4B, who walks many of the dogs in their building. They shook hands and told each other that they were waiting on a friend.

For nearly thirty minutes, they shared some conversation, about the building and the neighborhood, while constantly glancing at the clock. Both seemed disappointed when they realized that their "friends" were not showing up. They decided to grab a drink back in the neighborhood. They found an empty bar that neither had ever been in. The bartender was standing by the door.

"Are you still open?" Tyrone asked as they walked in.

"I was about to lock up, but please come in. I still have about a half hour's worth of cleaning up to do" the bartender said as he held the door open for them. He then locked the door and switched off the "open" neon sign.

"You look familiar." Jabari said

"From the dogrun. I'm Rocky's master"

"Yes, Rocky! that beautiful Jack Russell. Here's my card if you ever need a dog walker. My name is Jabari. I walk everyone's dogs."

"Hi Jabari, I'm Rodney."

"This is Tyrone." Jabari said

"Hi Tyrone. What can I get for you gentlemen?" Rodney, the bartender, asked

Jabari said "Besides a pair of eyes your color, I'll have a pint of your best micro brewed beer!"

"Make it two." Tyrone added

"My colored contact lenses and I will be right back with your beers." the bartender said with a smile.

Hearing Jabari order the beer put a smile on Tyrone's face "Jabari, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, everyone asks. It means brave and fearless." Jabari replied

"Huh?"

"My name. Jabari. It means brave and fearless. It's an African name. Isn't that what you wanted to ask?"

"No, Jabari." Tyrone said "What I want to ask was if, in addition to micro brewed beer, you like traveling and poetry?"

Jabari smiled as he said "I sure do. I also like brothas with strong glasses like mine. This is too funny Tyrone. Thanks for answering my ad. I thought you were straight."

"It is funny." Tyrone said "I thought you were straight, too. I'm so glad you're not. I should have made the connection when I saw you at the clock. I think I was expecting someone in glasses as strong as mine."

"As was just proven, looks can be deceiving. I bet my glasses are stronger than yours." Jabari replied "Here try them on."

"OK, will you hold mine for me?" Tyrone asked

"Sure, I'll hold them. Right here. On my nose."

"You were right, these are stronger than mine. What's your prescription?" Tyrone asked.

"They are -16, what are yours?"

"Mine are -14 but they're so much thicker than yours and they're made from the thin material" Tyrone said

"These were made in Germany" Jabari said "European lens technology is so much more advanced than it is here."

"They must be expensive!" said Tyrone

"I'm sure they were, but I didn't pay for them." Jabari said "One of my clients gave them to me. He had the same prescription as me. What are the odds of that happening? He gave them to me after he had Lasik last year."

The bartender brought over the beers and said "Here are your beers. Hey, you guys traded glasses. They look nice. Can I play too. I have my glasses in my bag."

"Sure!" Jabari said as he and Tyrone switched back to their own glasses "I hope you are in our league. Are your glasses strong?"

"Very!" Rodney replied as he grabbed his bag from under the bar. He reached into the bag and pulled out a black Calvin Klein eyeglass case. He slid a pair of two toned blueish black plastic framed glasses out of it. Both Jabari and Tyrone got a bit 'excited' as they saw the stylish frames holding lenses that were nearly one inch thick.

"Am I in your league?" the bartender asked

"May I try them on?" Tyrone asked

"Be my guest."

"Compared to you, we are in the minor leagues." Tyrone said as he tried on the glasses, which were far too strong for him "Do you want to try on mine?"

"Sure. Just let me take out my contacts." Rodney said as he reached into his bag for his contact lens case. Once his contacts were in their case, he held his hands out and asked Tyrone to place his glasses in them. He tried on the glasses and commented of how, though they were too weak for him, they gave him partial correction. He then asked Jabari if his were stronger than Tyrone's"

"Yes!" Jabari replied "Mine are -16Rx. His are only -14Rx. What's your prescription?"

"I have no idea!" Rodney said "but, as you can tell, it's really bad. Would it be on the contact lens vials? I always carry a couple of extra emergency vials. Can I have my glasses?"

"Here you go brotha." Jabari said as he placed them on Rodney's face.

"Thanks Jabari. You did that more gently than my eye doctor does." Rodney said "And to top it off, you did bare eyed."

"There's a reason why I do it so gently" Jabari said as he slipped his own glasses back on "I like brothas with glasses."

Tyrone and Jabari laughed at their private joke. Rodney smiled and said "You guys make such a great couple, how long have you been together?"

With a shy laugh, Tyrone replied, "This is our first date."

"Yeah right!" Rodney said as he was pulling out the contact lens vial from his bag "Here's the lens vial. Is there a prescription on it?"

Tyrone looked at the vial and read it aloud "Transaire Ex Colors Gas Permeable Lens -19.12... That's it right here. Your prescription is -19.12. I thought prescriptions only came in increments of .25 diopters. Wow this is very specific. What does gas permeable mean?"

Rodney smiled at Tyrone and said "It means that without correction, I'm one sorry ass mutha fucka that can have his ass kicked by a girl."

"Me too!" Tyrone laughed

"Me three!" Jabari added

"Actually the way my doc explained it to me was, gas permeable lenses are hard, fit better, and have more exact prescriptions which gives people like me the best possible vision. My eyes haven't changed in 12 years which my doctor said is partly because of wearing these. He also said that my prescription is almost the strongest that this brand comes in."

"I have never tried, nor will I ever try contacts. How about you Jabari?" Tyrone asked.

Jabari replied "I did and hated them. When my twin brother got his contacts, the doctor had me try some. My brother loves contacts!"

"I didn't know you were a twin!" Tyrone exclaimed

Rodney wondered how someone could not know that their partner had a twin sibling. He smiled at Tyrone and Jabari and said "This really is your first date, isn't it? I wonder what the odds are of two gay, Black men, in this neighborhood, with strong glasses. finding each other and a bartender with strong glasses. I'd love to find a boyfriend with strong glasses who can relate to me. American gay guys are so freaked out by my glasses."

"Rodney, you'd be surprised how many gay guys in this neighborhood have strong glasses. Most of them are hiding behind contacts, but unlike you, want to keep it a secret. As a dog walker, I have keys to over 40 apartments. About 30 of those clients are gay guys and of those, I would say that 50%, maybe 75%, of them are nearsighted, some of them very nearsighted. I try on every pair of glasses that I find on sink counters.

Rodney got a kick out of learning about the neighborhood myopia epidemic. He asked Jabari for "just one name". Jabari had to think long and hard about who Rodney might know. It came to him. "OK, I've got one that might know from the dog run on Saturdays and Sundays. You know Gucci and Versace's master?"

"You mean that guy with the M-m-m-m-m cute butt, the cowboy hat and the sunglasses, who always stays at the far end of the dog run?" Rodney asked with a curious smile

"Well, there's a reason he stays there alone. He's really shy about being seen in his glasses. He tries to relax his eyes by wearing his glasses instead of his contacts on weekend mornings. He's REALLY nearsighted. I think his glasses are even stronger than yours. He wears the hat to cast a shadow on his face and hide the glasses. He can't see a thing without his glasses or contacts. Tex never lets anyone see him in his non-tinted glasses. Too bad 'cause he looks so good in them."

Rodney then said "Oh my God, his name is Tex. That name is so sexy. You must be very good friends if he let you see them."

Jabari explained how he saw Tex's glasses "I've been walking his dogs since the day he moved to New York two years ago. The day he signed his lease, he approached me as I was walking three dogs. I gave him my card and references. About an hour later, he called me, and told me that in addition to the references, he asked three different dog owners, in the neighborhood, to recommend a dog walker. All of them highly recommended me. One week later, Tex moved to the city and invited me to his new apartment for drinks and to meet the dogs, that I would be walking, starting the next day."

"Is that when you saw his glasses?" Rodney asked

"No, not yet. Sorry, it's such a long story." Jabari said with a chuckle "The furniture was in place, but everything else was still in boxes. He hadn't even unpacked his wine glasses or corkscrew and apologized for serving beer. We had a couple of beers and played with the dogs. Tex felt really comfortable with me and knew that his babies would be in good hands. He gave me a check and his keys and told me that he would have me over for dinner when he got around to unpacking everything.

He works some odd hours. Since many of Tex's clients are abroad, he's usually out of the house at 4 AM long before the dogs wake up. I walk the dogs at 8 AM. When I let myself into the apartment, on about the third or fourth day, I was surprised to find Tex still home. He was sitting on his couch with the dogs. His eyes were red and he looked as though he had been crying for hours."

"What was wrong?" Tyrone asked

"Tex was happy that I was there. He told me that during the night, the dogs were scared by the thunder and lightning and jumped into his bed. When they jumped up, they must have knocked his glasses and contact lens case off the nightstand. He told me that he was on his hands and knees, feeling for them, but was unsuccessful. He also told me that because his eyesight is so bad, that he has a few backup pairs of glasses and extra contacts, but, unfortunately, they were yet to be unpacked. Without correction, he would never figure out which of the 69 boxes they were in. I told him that I would find his glasses. I walked into his bedroom and found his glasses on the floor, near the radiator. I brought them to him and told him that I had not yet found his contacts case."

"So, you said his glasses were strong? And he looked good in them?" Rodney asked

"Did you try them on?" Tyrone asked

"Yes, I tried on his strong glasses. And Yes! He looked so gorgeous in just glasses and his underwear. He's a briefs man and his bubble butt is even cuter without the tight jeans. Tex and I then tried to find his contact lens case. It was on the bed near the pillow. I thought he was going to put his lenses in immediately. He didn't. Instead we had a long conversation about our bad eyesight and tried on each other's glasses. He was a little embarrassed about what had happened. He was also a bit embarrassed about having such bad eyesight and asked if I felt the same."

Rodney interrupted and said "Though I've only known you for a half hour, I know that your answer was no. Am I right?"

"You are correct Sir Rodney." Jabari replied "I told Tex that my eyesight was what it is, and that it was one of the things that made me, me. It never stopped me from anything. Tex appreciated that and told me he wished he felt the same. Over time, I learned that part of his problem, was not his problem at all, but rather, his boyfriend's problem."

"Damn! He's got a boyfriend?" Rodney asked

"Not any more." Jabari replied as he continued "He was in a long distance relationship with a guy back in El Paso, but Tex recently broke it off. The guy couldn't stand Tex' glasses. Not only in public, but also at home. He didn't even want Tex to wear glasses when they were alone. Tex loved this guy so much. He was smart, generous, funny, good looking, and successful. Ironically he was the myopic one. After Tex broke it off. He vowed never to date a guy with 20/20 vision again."

"I don't have 20/20 vision!" Rodney said

"You can say that again!" Tyrone exclaimed as the three laughed hysterically

"Rodney, what's your next night off?" Jabari asked

"Wednesday. Why?" Rodney asked

"Maybe you, Tyrone, Tex, and I can have dinner at my place. I'm a great Chef. How about you Ty, want to make it our second date?"

Tyrone lightly kissed Jabari on the lips and said "Yes, and I'm a great Sous Chef."

Jabari excused himself, walked to the other end of the bar and made a cell phone call to Tex.

[Ring...Ring...]

Tex: "Hello!"

Jabari: "Hi Tex, it's Jabari. How are you? I hope I didn't wake you."

Tex: "You didn't. Me and the boys are watching "Beethoven." It's their favorite movie. What's up? Aren't you on that blind date?"

Jabari: "Yes, I am. It turns out that my blind date is a guy from my building that I already knew. We are having a great time and we just met a guy."

Tex: "A threesome? You wild man, you."

Jabari: "You are so funny, Tex. No the guy is for you. I'd love for you to meet him at dinner at my place on Wednesday. It will be a double date. Whatdaya say?"

Tex: "Have you told him about me?"

Jabari: "Actually, he's seen you at the dog run. He's a dog owner, too. He's very interested in meeting you."

Tex: "You know about my new policy."

Jabari: "That no more 20/20 guys thing?"

Tex: "Yep!"

Jabari: "Brother, you and this guy can probably trade glasses."

Tex: "NO!"

Jabari: "YES! Not only that, but he is easy on the eyes too. He looks like a cross between Tyson Beckford and Denzel Washington. Whatdaya say? Want to meet him?"

Tex: "Yes! What should I bring?"

Jabari: "Just bring yourself and those glasses that I helped you find when the dogs knocked them down."

Tex: "I've never worn my glasses on a date. Let alone a first date. Duke wouldn't even let me wear them to eat breakfast at home."

Jabari: "That's the difference between Duke and Rodney."

Tex: "His name is Rodney? I love that name. My first boyfriend was named Rodney."

Jabari: "He loves the name Tex, too."

Tex: "About my glasses, I just picked up a new pair today. The frames are Alain Mikli they are nice. Maybe I'll wear those. I don't believe I am going to wear glasses on a date. I just wrote a note to myself. Tomorrow morning, after I pop in my lenses, I'll leave the new Alain Mikli's, the glasses the dogs knocked down, and a rimless pair that you haven't seen, all on the kitchen counter. When you let yourself in to walk the dogs, you can decide which pair to wear. Hey, that rhymes."

Jabari: "You're a born poet. (laughter) And you know I love poetry. Sure thing! I'll leave a note with my glasses selection and my address."

Tex: "Jabari, thank you!"

Jabari: "No, thank you. Good night!"

Tex: B-bye!

"Were on!" Jabari said, as he flipped his phone closed, and returned to Tyrone and Rodney "Wednesday night. Seven O'clock. He's psyched! He's wearing his glasses!"

"Great! I'll wear mine too!" Rodney exclaimed "If I take out my contacts when I get home on Tuesday night and leave them out until I come in on Thursday, my eyes will feel great! How about one more round—on the house?"

(To Be Continued)