Mingling

It’s impossible to miss Diego in the crowd… Leon’s son shines like a beacon. No surprise there; his mother had been beautiful, even if Leon could only recognize that truth objectively. She was a one-time experiment, a confused teen’s desperate attempt to prove himself straight before accepting the inevitable. He hadn’t really thought of Esmerelda again for years, until the day he got a letter telling him he had a 16-year-old son. A son who now stands amongst the beautiful people at Mr. T’s party.

Leon still isn’t sure what to think when he lays eyes on his boy. Pride mixes with confusion, jealousy with regret, amazement with defensiveness. He never thought anyone would know about his fling, and after so many years as an icon of gay pride, suddenly he’s finding himself questioned. How does a gay man have a son?

What’s done is done. No way to go but forward.

“Diego!” he says with false bravado, approaching the boy with Chain in tow. “I didn’t even know you’d be here!” He pulls Chain a little more forward. “Meet my son,” he says. His smile and the warmth in his tone aren’t entirely faked.

Chain’s eyebrows raise fractionally. “I didn’t know you had a son!” They briefly shake hands. Leon tries, and fails, not to watch how long the touch lingers.

“Oh yes,” Leon says. “It was in all the papers. Our touching reunion.” He lets go of Chain and moves to throw an arm around Diego’s shoulders. “And just as gay as me! It really does run in the family.”

He’s looking away, and doesn’t see the pained expression that flashes over Diego’s face. “Don’t worry,” he goes on, oblivious. “I’ll introduce you around. You’re going to be swimming in men tonight.” A quick squeeze, and then he moves away again. “Speaking of which, I’m going to mingle. You all enjoy yourselves.” He gives Chain a possessive kiss before releasing him, and admires the leather baby’s ass as he walks away.

There are so many faces, new and old. He spots another young one and heads in his direction. “I don’t think we’ve met,” he says. “Leon.” He waits for recognition.

“Oh. Eli.” The boy seems a little distracted.

Leon gives him a flirtatious smile. “You’ve heard of me, of course. Disco isn’t dead,” he adds quickly. “Never let ’em tell you it is!” He waits a beat. “And how do you know Mr. T?”

“I don’t, much,” Eli says. “I came here with my professor. Abner.”

“Oh, of course! Abner,” Leon says. He’s seen the older man around at this party and others. They aren’t really acquainted, but Abner’s writing is known even in his circles within the New York gay scene. “Are you another student of poetry?”

“Comparative literature, actually.”

“What does that mean? You… compare things?”

Eli’s smile is shy, self-conscious. “Yeah, basically. Look at the differences and write about them. Analyze and criticize social and cultural expression across boundaries and within literary traditions.”

The conversation is already over Leon’s head. “In other words, you mostly criticize other people’s writing.”

The jab doesn’t really seem to land with Eli. “Yes, and write about it. And I do my own writing as well, building on the concepts in new works.”

Leon can’t seem to help himself; his smile is patronizing. “I’m sure that’s fascinating to read,” he says. There’s a brief uncomfortable pause, but Leon knows how to smooth those over. He reaches into his pocket for a joint, lights it up, then offers it to Eli, who accepts easily. They toke up, both streaming smoke over their heads with the ease of familiarity.

It’s around then that Enrique slides up. “I see you’re already getting started.” He takes off his hat and reaches into it for small baggies of powder and pills: coke and quaaludes. He offers them to Leon. “First round is free.”

That’s a bit of a relief; Leon is already into the Studio 54 bartender for a few hundred. “Nice.” No sooner are the pills in hand than he’s offering them to Eli, then more men who wander into his vicinity. Names and faces begin to slide together as the chemicals take effect.

“Leon,” he says to man after man. “Leon, yes, that Leon. Disco isn’t dead; never let ’em tell you it is!”

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