Frank and his cat (The Odd Couple)
When I was 21, I lived in New York, on Staten Island, and worked as
an Dietitic intern. It was a wonderful year, and I made many very
good friends. One of them was Frank, who was a nurse in the hospital
we both worked in - the US Public Health Service Hospital, which is a
branch of the US military, strange as it may seem, as we were the
hospital that dealt with the Coast Guard's medical problems. Frank
was a permanent employee - probably in his late twenties. He was
tall, slim, nice looking with a blond crew cut, and a wonderful
personality. He was always smiling and cracking jokes.
Frank had tickets for the Odd Couple at the Plymouth Theatre in
Manhatten and invited me to go with him. I really liked Frank, and
spent a long time getting ready - for this our first real date. I
wore a black dress, and one of my friends did my hair. I remember I
put on perfume, which is something I rarely do, and really felt like
I looked (and smelled) really good.
Frank had a Volkswagon Beetle, so we drove over the Verrizano Narrows Bridge, and through
the Brooklyn Tunnel, and made the 17 mile journey probably in about
an hour. The first thing Frank said when I got in his car was, "You
stink," so I guess my perfume was not having the desired effect.
I took out my handkerchief, spit on it, and scrubbed under my ears.
The play is about Felix, who is neurotically neat, thrown out
by his wife and moves in with his friend Oscar who is obsessively
sloppy. He's also careless with money, an excessive gambler and
drives Felix mad with his food habits. But he enjoys life while Felix
is miserable about everything. He tries to "improve"
Oscar's way of life, and ends up getting thrown out by him too, but
he does by the end seem to learn something positive from Oscar.
I thought it was a wonderful play and really loved every minute. Frank
hated it and seemed most uncomfortable with the dialogue, but I
didn't let him spoil my enjoyment.
Afterwards, we went to Frank's apartment, for a snack. Frank had a cat, a big furry dark
grey one, and as soon as I went in, she started hissing at me. (I'm
not a cat lover, or even liker.) Frank said she was very jealous of
any women friends that he had around. She jumped on Frank's shoulder,
and he seemed to have her on or around him for the rest of the evening.
Before we ate, we had Frank's special drink - a
Highland fling I think it was called - whiskey and milk. I know it
sounds just awful, but it was surprisingly good.
Then we had the meal which Frank had prepared previously and just heated up. It
was my job to set the table. I went into the cupboard and got out
what I thought were the nicest plates, flowery delicate china, and
put them out, with the usual silverware. Frank brought the dish
through - Spaghetti Bolognaise - and then Frank nearly dropped it
when he saw what I'd done. "Those are Sooty's dishes!" he
exclaimed. Sooty was the cat. So I had failed yet again in my attempt to
please him. He took the precious plates away and replaced them by the
bog standard variety, and we ate our meal.
Afterwards, I decided to make my play. "I know you're not really shy, Frank,
so it makes me wonder why you've never tried to kiss me," I
said. If you knew me, you would have known how difficult it would
have been for me to say those words. "Did it ever occur to you that I might not want to?"
he asked in a sort of strangled voice.
So that was the rather awkward end of what had started out as a lovely evening. He took me
home, unkissed, and when I related the experience to my friends, one
said, "But Frank's gay. Didn't you know?"
It had never entered my mind. I didn't know any gay men. I knew there were
such people in the world - but I had yet to knowingly meet any of
them. Well, obviously I unknowingly knew one quite well. I was
flabergasted. But my friendship with Frank continued for the rest of
the year and we did go places together occasionally after that. I
searched elsewhere for my kissing friends, but that's another story.