Johnny and Eric first met on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September, 1978 at the Chilhowie Park flea market in Knoxville, TN. It was right down the hill from Eric's home.

Johnny was selling Doberman puppies. Eric saw the stall and was curious. He was a cat person and felt more than a little intimidated by Dobermans, but he was attracted to Johnny. Eric had come with a young friend who wanted to browse around the stalls. Eric let his friend to himself and wandered back to the Doberman stall.

Johnny had noticed Eric and wished he'd come back, but flea markets were flea markets, and people come and go. Someone else as attractive might come by today, he thought, but doubted it. Then he saw Eric making his way back through the crowd and flashed a smile.

Eric immediately came over but stood by awkwardly. Johnny tried his usual opening line: "Haven't I seen you here before?" Eric, a novice at flirting, stumbled through an explanation that he was teaching at the local university and doubted that he'd met Johnny before unless he'd been taking first-year Japanese, which he was teaching, but he doubted it, because after all, he'd have remembered anyone taking language in his class, but Johnny didn't look familiar, etc., etc.

Johnny just flashed another smile and took him by the sleeve to look at a pup. Eric finally began to warm up, and they struck up a conversation that lasted until his young friend came by complaining that he was being ignored. Eric left with him. His only regret as he walked away was that Johnny was straight. Johnny was under no such illusion about Eric. Johnny's only regret was that he hadn't gotten Eric's phone number.

Johnny continued to look around Knoxville for Eric but didn't see him again until the night of October 15. He had gone to the Carousel, one of several Knoxville gay bars. Johnny was in the final stages of a failing relationship with his roommate and sometimes lover who, for his part, had been happy enough to see him leave for the evening. He had his own plans. Once Johnny got to the bar, little was happening, and he sat at the bar for a beer.

Later in the evening, Eric came in, unaccompanied this time by the young boyfriend who'd been with him at the flea market. Said boyfriend in fact had dumped Eric on his birthday the week before. Eric was happy enough for that fact and was celebrating a late birthday that night.

It was Sunday night. The next day was a workday, and Knoxville lived by the book of work. So did Eric. On this night, for whatever reason, the crowd stayed on late, and Eric stayed on with it. He continued to move around the floor talking with various men, but no one in particular. He didn't see Johnny, who kept hidden in the shadows. Johnny for his part was too shy to say hello to strangers in a bar, where he didn't have his dogs for a cover.

Around 11 PM, a young bartender from another of the local gay bars came up to Eric and said there was someone he wanted to introduce to him. In fact, Johnny had set him up and told Eric so long, long afterwards. The bartender took him up to the bar, and there was Johnny. Laughing, he introduced the two and went back out on the floor.

Eric sat down on a barstool next to Johnny. Once again, the conversation wasn't getting too far. Eric for his part kept slipping back into professorial mode, and Johnny remained stubbornly silent. They strained to find some common thread. Finally, Eric did something unusual. He acted. He took Johnny's hand and shoved it down in his crotch as they sat next to each other.

They didn't need to do anything more. A jolt went between them, a flood of energy and ecstasy. They never questioned it but let it do its work. They forgot time, for that night and for a long time afterwards.

Throughout their time together, Johnny and Eric referred to sex as having an intelligent conversation.