At PrideFest in Holiday Park in March, while staffing the Stonewall National Museum & Archive booth, we met an interesting man from Little Rock, Arkansas. Turns out he is a highly respected medical professional who lives and works in a small town as a closeted gay man. Before we arrive in Little Rock we give him a call which he readily answers and offers to meet.
We arrive in a cold rain, another day in weeks of rain, snow, wind, cold and no sun. Heath is parked downtown on the river with a cloud covered view of the river across from the Clinton Presidential Library. The park is behind foot thick concrete walls which are easily taken as security, though we find from our new friend they are flood walls and protect North Little Rock from the Arkansas River when it spills over its banks.
He arrives with a very nice bottle of Scotch with which we toast a sudden downpour and each other. He would like to show us his house. I will be remiss failing to admit that the ride passed with a certain amount of trepidation, getting into a relative stranger’s car and being driven out of town to their house in the wooded mountains.
The ride, however, proves worth it. We have all seen houses, and nice ones at that. Riding up to this one it is immediately apparent this is a really nice one. The garage opens automatically on our arrival and closes automatically behind, protecting us from the heavy rain.
From the garage we ride an elevator up through the house until it opens into a hall that runs for fifty feet to a massive main entrance, with a curved ceiling slanting up several stories to the aerie accessed by either another elevator ride or a tightly curled iron stairway with triangular oak treads. Two tall wide stained glass doors open to a study while two enormous carved antique doors open to a dining room with a Duncan Fife table for twelve.
The ceilings of these rooms and halls are each done in carved panels, hammered brass or sunken glass. The views out of the main hall and higher up yet in the aerie are long range down the mountain, across the lowlands and between two bluffs cut by the river to the skyline of Little Rock huddled in its ambient glow under dark evening clouds.
I could get comfortable in such a place.
We descend in the elevator to a double carved door locked with a chain and an antique skeleton key lock. Inside are two thousand bottles of wine. Our proud host suggests I choose any bottle and he will open it. I choose one by simply reaching out and touching any bottle. The wine is opened and we carry it upstairs for glasses only to have it declared undrinkable with one whiff and left on the kitchen counter; I suppose for the staff.
Giving up on the wine we ride back to North Little Rock and our host takes us to what is obviously a very popular establishment, a northern Italian restaurant in North Little Rock where he is immediately and warmly welcomed. We sit at our table and are immediately served twelve year old Glen Fiddich on ice. Dinner was delicious, company gracious, conversation intelligent and the rainy night in Little Rock melted into fabulous.
Living with such opulence as a single closeted gay man struck me as exceedingly sad. Especially as those serving us dinner clearly understood the reality; as do most who truly care. There is only one person being fooled behind that closet door.