I’m not one to out closeted gay men, or straight ones for that matter, but the Dominican guys sitting in the Broadway median at 138th street somehow figured I should be part of their goofy little game.
“Hey papi!” Pacheco called out to me from across the street, waving his hands over his head. I had just finished taking photos of an elegant old man across the street, and dutifully went over.
“If a guy show you a picture of a man who not dressed,” he started, apropos of nothing, “who totally naked, what you think about that guy, huh?”
Pacheco Rodriguez, 54, has an impressively shaped bald head and wears Christ around his neck and on a ring on his right hand. At this moment, he also sported a devilish grin as he and his friends eagerly awaited my answer. The ‘guy’ he referred to was a member of their group, a tall, lanky fellow sitting on the bench, with a camera hanging from his neck. He had a world-weary expression, as if he’d heard this routine a thousand times.
I cut to the chase: “Do you want me to say he’s gay?”
The men were ecstatic, all except for the photographer, that is.
“YES!” Shouted Pacheco, clapping his hands. “He’s gay! He’s gay! You got it!”
“Wait,” I countered, “I didn’t say he’s gay. You did!”
But they would have none of it, and seemed somehow validated. I looked over at the photographer guy to see what he made of all this. But now he was pulling out a photo — THE photo.
It showed a man in the street, wearing nothing but a white tube sock over his tackle. The photographer said he’d taken it at the Gay Pride parade, downtown. I briefly wondered, did he always carry this photo around?
No matter. I lifted up my own camera and asked if I could click an image of him holding up the photo.
“No!” shouted Pacheco, grabbing my arm.
He seemed a little alarmed. He reminded me that I “talked like a straight guy,” and didn’t want me to make a terrible mistake by taking a picture of a gay man.
I put my camera down and shared one last, world-weary glance with the tall photographer guy, who put his naked-guy picture away.
“These guys don’t know the first thing about photography.”