"Boomer, guess what!" Fred said breathlessly, in those days before texting overtook the telephone. "I got a new job, in Bemidji, Minnesota!"
Last I heard, my ex-boyfriend Fred and his partner Jester -- a blind guy who taught high school history -- were in Sandusky, Ohio, where Fred was working as an assistant pastor at a congregational church. Granted, a step down for someone with a doctorate in theology and ten years of pastoral experience, but Sandusky was a gay resort town.
What in the world were they doing in Bemidji, Minnesota?
Population 14,000. Near nowhere at all (3 1/2 hours to Minneapolis, 4 1/2 hours to Winnipeg).
Famous for nothing in particular except a statue of Paul Bunyan, which isn't all that impressive.
One mixed bar, a campus gay organization, and that's it.
What else? A job.
Granted, a step up, but Bemidji, Minnesota? Farther from the gay world than even Fresno. What did Jester say?
"He's on board with it," Fred said curtly. He never discussed his relationships unless forced, and then only briefly, the product of years of being closeted at work.
I was very busy during my last year in grad school, working two jobs, finishing my doctoral dissertation, and applying for every job in a gay neighborhood I could find, so I didn't contact Fred much. Then in the spring I saw an ad for a job at Bemidji State University!
It might not be so bad. Fred, Jester and I could start a gay political group, or maybe a weekly bear party like the one on Long Island. And Minneapolis was close enough for weekend trips.
So in April I flew out for the interview.
Bemidji, Minnesota, April 2001
I soon discovered that the department were just inviting me so they could congratulate themselves on being so liberal. They would never hire someone who researched gay topics, or as one interviewer called it, "sex education."
After dinner on Thursday night, they dropped me off at my hotel, and Fred picked me up for dessert at Rudy's, followed by cruising at the mixed bar.
Sitting beside him in his car was not Jester, but a Cute Young Thing I had never seen or heard of before.
He was tall and skinny, with shoulder-length hair, a moustache, and a hard smooth chest. There was a map of Iceland tattoo on his arm.
Where was Jester?
"Oh, Jester is back in San Bernardino," Fred said dismissively. "He came out for a couple of months, but then decided to go home."
"I can understand that. It's hard for blind people to adapt to new environments, and I'll bet teaching credentials don't transfer from state to state. He'd have to go back to school in order to teach here, right?"
"No, he just didn't like the cold weather," Fred said.
"And he missed the California beach boys," Stefan said in fluent English, with a little lilt in his voice. "Never anything on his mind but sex, sex, sex, all day and all night!"
That didn't sound like Jester. Time to change the subject. "I love Iceland! I visited when I was in college. Reykjavik is beautiful."
"Reykjavik is too big and noisy. Gritty. Have you ever been to Akureyri? It's still quiet, no tourists. You can hear yourself think."
"Um...no. I've just been to Rekjavik, and to a hot springs about an hour away."
"If you have been to Iceland," Stefan continued, "You must learn the Icelandic language. It is the most pure of languages, unchanged since the days of the sagas. No modern influences. Ég vil sjá hala þínum, I want to see your penis."
"Where have you been in the U.S. besides Bemidji?" I asked.
"Minneapolis, and a few days in New York."
"I live in New York. Great, isn't it?"
"What a dump!" Stefan spat. "It smells like a garbage can, and the people do nothing all day but watch the television. How can you live in such a place?"
Ugh. Stefan was as elitist as Fred's ex-boyfriend Matt. I hate elitists, but apparently Fred couldn't get enough of them!
The mixed gay-straight bar was dark and rather seedy, with scary-looking guys propping up beer bottles like phalluses.
"Trolls!" Stefan exclaimed. "In Iceland, trolls are big, clumsy fellows who eat people. Here they are just ugly and smell of armpits. But we will dance, Boomer, ok? Fred won't dance with me."
There was no one dancing. "No, thanks," I said.
"Americans are so in the closet! No one will shoot us if we just dance together!"
But I continued to refuse, and Stefan sat pouting for awhile, silent as Fred and I caught up on old friends, except for an occasional rude interjection:
"Lane just lives on his mother's money? Is he handicapped? In Iceland everyone must work."
I didn't really feel like sharing this elitist jerk, but it had been about two years since I was in Fred's bed, so I consented to go back to his apartment. The moment we came through the door, Stefan ran to the bathroom -- "I can't use the sickening, dirty bathroom at the bar!"
Fred nudged me. "Isn't he great? So cosmopolitan! We'll be together for the rest of our lives, I guarantee. I've never met anyone like him before!"
"Really?" He seemed exactly like Matt, in his Cute Young Thing days, before he turned down the sarcasm and started trying to be friendly. "Stefan doesn't remind you of any of your old boyfriends?"
"Um...no one comes to mind. Well, he does remind me of Jester in one way."
"His interest in history?"
"No." He grinned. "Something else."
"So, are we ready for the sharing?" Stefan walked out of the bathroom, already naked, a Kovbasa++ just as big as Jester's swinging between his legs.
"Don't just look. Who wants to go down on me first?"
You're probably wondering about the mechanics of going down on a guy with 11". It works best with two guys, one working on the head and the other working on the shaft. Unfortunately, Fred was a top, and not really into giving oral, so I had to handle the entire job. Not that I minded.
After that night, Fred never mentioned Stefan again. No doubt they broke up. His job at Bemidji didn't last long, either.
See also: The Naked Nordic God of the Icelandic Hotsprings; The Tacher with Sixteen Inches