“Happy Hour at Café Jones” by Rob Byrnes from Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2009).

Oh, it’s another humorous story from Rob Byrnes. As much as I was moved by “Carver Comes Home” in Best Gay Romance 2014, I love when he’s being funny and sweet at the same time, so it was nice to have an excuse to re-read this piece.

Brian has been single for a year, ever since his boyfriend Stuart dumped him for a realtor. He abhors blind dates but hasn’t managed to meet anyone face-to-face, and so twice he’s given in and contacted someone via a dating website. The first time? Disaster.

Still, there he is, in the dive bar where he and his ex had their first date, about to give it another try. He chose the location because it’s safe territory. Since things ended with Stuart he never goes there anymore, so if the blind date—David—turns out to be a troll, at least it won’t render a place he likes off-limits. The thing he doesn’t count on, though, is that Stuart might still frequent the bar…

This is classic Rob Byrnes: funny, thoughtful, warm storytelling. Brian is a completely relatable character. Who wouldn’t want to spend some time in his skin, sitting on a bar stool in the Café Jones on an otherwise bleak Rochester afternoon? There’s no place better.