Shortly after my arrival in Cincinnati, I started riding my bicycle around Eden Park. The park has a maze of paved paths that wind around buildings and sculptures dating back to the early 1900s, and I found the sprawling, densely wooded park to be enchanting. I was inexplicably attracted to the park’s large Moorish-style gazebo that was ornately painted in white and indigo and crowned by a spherical finial. A prominent Cincinnati attorney shot and murdered his wife at the gazebo in 1927, and legend has it that her ghost continues to haunt it.
Although I didn’t encounter paranormal activity at the gazebo, I discovered that it was the epicenter of a burgeoning gay scene. But while I was very curious, I was acutely shy and hesitant to entangle myself with anyone. After riding my bike to the gazebo every day for a couple of weeks, a tall, muscular man in his early thirties finally approached me. His name was Robert. He had thinning black hair and distinctive Mediterranean facial features—an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, and a dark complexion. Robert invited me to Friends, a gay bar near the park, and I agreed to accompany him.
When we entered Friends, I heard blaring disco music and a spinning mirrored ball scattered flashes of light throughout the bar. The bar was dark, and plumes of cigarette smoke wafted near the ceiling. As we crossed the black tiled floor and walked to a table near the bar, I was dumbfounded to see men kissing and holding hands. After Robert and I sat down, I ordered a coke, because I had never imbibed alcohol before. While I sipped my coke, and surveyed Friends’ patrons, I quickly came to the visceral realization that I wasn’t the only gay man in the world, and I was momentarily overwhelmed by jubilance. I finally had an existential affirmation of my sexuality.