Incident in San Francisco (Chapter 3, page 2 of 4)


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Chapter 3

On the sidewalks, between the bars and the curbside loungers, couples, trios, and a few single men strolled along through the pools of amber street light, reveling in the freedom they felt. Many had migrated from small towns or less tolerant cities and could hardly believe that they could not only be open about their homosexuality but could flaunt it. But even more, they exalted in the knowledge that in this area of many blocks, they were for the first time not a minority but were instead the overwhelming majority. The minority were the straight people who ventured in, whether they were conservatives slumming, liberals being tolerant, bigots hating, or just people who enjoyed good restaurants.

Ranny had spotted his one-time teacher by accident. It was the cowboy hat which caught his eye - apart from the motorcycle riders' leather caps, bare heads were the rule. In fact, most men in this area affected the close-cropped hair and small mustaches that were referred to as the "Castro clone" look. But Ranny's one-time teacher had found that, in order to be noticed amongst so many young men who looked the same, he had a much more active social life if he reverted to the dress of his youth. Although he had not actually been a cowboy, he had learned enough about that life in Billings to use that knowledge now to his advantage. A great many of the émigrés in San Francisco were from Eastern cities and towns, and were strongly attracted to the sight of a handsome young man who looked as though he had stepped out of a Marlboro ad - and better yet, he was in this part of town, which meant that he could be available. Leaning back against a wall in his faded, tight jeans, one heel of a pointy-toed alligator cowboy boot hooked up behind on a ledge, he had plenty of reason to smile as he chatted with the two young men who had stopped to talk. Of course, he had no way of knowing that the eventual outcome of that pleasant meeting would be his death from AIDS within ten years.

It gave Ranny a jolt to see his former teacher in such a setting - but not because he, like his classmates, hadn't considered the possibility that that their new English teacher might prefer boys to girls. It was just the dislocation that comes when seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar setting - like meeting one's dentist in the grocery store. Besides, Mr. Ryan had attempted, unsuccessfully, to instill some feelings of respect for authority by always wearing a jacket and tie. This laughing young cowboy in the heart of the Castro looked quite a different man than the nervous, well-dressed teacher who had tried, and failed, to communicate his love of literature to Ranny and his peers. But Ranny had recognized him instantly.

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