Dieter Saves the Day
"So," Hendrick said, as plates were passed around and chicken and rice were spooned up in generous portions. "How was your Pride?"
"Not to boast," Dieter piped up excitedly, "but I saved the day. Twice!"
"Really? What else did you do?" I asked.
Hendrick shot me a look. "Yes, what else?" he echoed.
I told the tale, with frequent (and exaggerated) interjections from my cousin. My husband and I had gone to Pride along with Dieter and Axel, and enjoyed the sights and energy of the crowd. But our day had been marred by an act of homophobic ugliness.
It wasn't the occasional sad-looking, sign-bearing protester, usual for Pride events, that had been problematic; rather, it was a drunken and quite raucous straight couple that had provided some distasteful drama. We'd glimpsed them here and there, jeering at the gays and sniping at each other, but not thought much about it.
Then the wife (or so we assumed, anyway) boiled up out of nowhere to confront my husband out of the blue:
"You faggot! You pansy! You're a bad man!" she shrieked.
Why she thought he was a worse man than any of the other pansies at Pride was a mystery; she didn't bother to explain it to us, though. She simply kept on screaming, her red, contorted face a worthy image for any anti-gay placard. Yes, her twisted, enraged features would be right at home next to a legend reading, "This message approved by..." It's a picture that's worth a hundred thousand words. More ugly still were the alcoholic fumes pouring from her.
"Faggot!" she screamed again. "You stay away from me!" For someone worried about catching a gay germ (or whatever her problem was), she was acting more than a little deranged. He should stay away from her? Then why was she advancing on him, step by step, practically pawing the ground like a crazed beast? Why had she interjected herself into our afternoon in the first place?
To his credit, the man who was with her, though appearing equally drunk, seemed to be trying to hold her back. But his efforts were futile: the harpy shrugged him off and continued to berate my astonished husband.
I suppose that sometimes the best thing one can do when confronted by lunatic abuse is to own the situation, and I was proud beyond measure when my husband did just that.
"Hell yeah, I'm a faggot," he told the twisted-faced harridan. "You got a problem with that, lady?"
At that moment, a police officer intervened--summoned, as it turned out, by Dieter, who had spotted a uniform in the crowd and acted swiftly to bring the verbal attack to his attention. The woman's drunken fury shifted to the cop, whom she similarly began to upbraid ("Fuck you! I've done nothing wrong!"). In the end, several cops were needed to quell the disturbance. As her husband looked on, the screaming woman was loaded onto an ambulance and taken away.
"What, are they taking her to a hospital?" I asked, outraged. She belonged in lockup.
"Probably a psych ward," offered Adalbert, whom we'd met up with shortly before the outburst.
"Or a church," put in Axel.
"My god," Hendrick said, as we finished our account.
"Actually," said Axel, sitting across the table from Dieter, "what I said was they were probably taking her back to her megachurch."
"You didn't tell me you went to Pride," Manda, Dieter's fiancée, put in.
"Sure I did. I told you I was going and I asked you to come but you and your sister were shopping for little black dresses or something," Dieter replied.
"It was my sorority sister," Manda said, rolling her eyes.
Dieter stared, not sure why this was a difference that mattered. He had a grain of rice lodged in his mustache; Manda wiped it away with her napkin.
"So, what was Dieter's other heroic escapade?" I asked.
Dieter had stayed on with Axel after my husband and I, put off Pride by the harridan's attack, had left. After Axel wandered off with some young man, Dieter met up with Hendrick, who was sharking through the crowd anxiously.
"He's here--I just saw him!" Hendrick exclaimed.
The person in question turned out to be a former employee who had stolen money from Hendrick's small business before vanishing. Hendrick had gone to the police about the matter, of course, and a warrant was out for the guy, but thus far there's been no trace of him--until now.
Dieter had an idea. "My phone has this nifty app..."
"So, by using Grindr, we were able to triangulate on his position and close in," Dieter explained, after going into a lengthy digression about how he had located the police officer that had come to our rescue earlier and explained the situation. "And the officer was, like, 'What is this new technology? We could use this for fighting crime!' "
"It was just a little awkward explaining it to the cops," Hendrick chuckled.
"Dude," Axel joked from across the table, "you have Grindr on your phone? Are you sure you're not gay?"
Laughing, everyone looked to Manda to see what rejoinder she might come up with. But Manda was looking at Dieter with eyes like two black bruises.
"You use Grindr?" she asked him.
"Yeah, and fortunately, so did the thief. But you know I'm not gay," Dieter told her playfully, not yet realizing his neck was in the noose. "Straight people use it, too."
"Not when they're engaged to be married," Manda informed him sharply.
Caught short, Dieter struggled to formulate a sentence. "But... but I only use it to... to chat with people..."
Manda was already halfway out the front door.
Then Dieter did what he always does when he gets himself in big trouble: He looked at me, as if I could somehow fix things for him. Sometimes, I can. But this situation was well beyond repair.
"Uh oh," Dieter said.
Note: Some names and identifying details have been altered, but the stories recounted here actually happened.