Column

Home Column

Here’s What: A Letter from Ezra

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 10

It was August, I believe. One of the hot months. My life had just calmed down after the Pride celebration, yet had picked up speed with a live performance of a sitcom I was writing at the time. At that point, I’d known Ezra all of two months. But in the interest of the man I’d begun dating a week or so after Pride—Jacob, we’ll call him—I’d sort of taken some off-time with Ezra. We’d hung out twice, I think. Once at Freaky Friday: The Musical, and again at the Idina Menzel concert. Both were fun—immense, fun, actually. Still, nothing had come of either, and I’d moved on … well, I’d moved coupled with Jake. 

Jake was 37—a doctoral student who I’d agreed to help with his dissertation—and our relationship was nothing short of intense. He was tall and slender and he drove a truck—a man’s man. The country-music-listening-but-still-voted-for-Hillary type. But he also cried … like … a lot. Coming from me, someone with the emotional threshold of a Goodwill shoe, that was saying something. 

Nevertheless, it did intensify the relationship ever more so. And although I never fell in love with Jake completely or maybe just not properly, that intensity was something felt universally. Others saw it when we sat together at bars or in restaurants, staring into one another’s eyes for minutes without blinking. Jake saw it bouncing off of me when we’d sit at patio tables where, as I began to laugh, the umbrella poking out from its center would begin to spin on a windless night. It was evident when we’d pour shots of Fireball at his apartment, raising glasses to the days to come after his graduation, and the shot glass would explode between my loosely-gripped fingers before ever making its way across the island to clink his own.

The trouble began when I lost myself somewhere inside of Jake for the time. I couldn’t go without thinking of him, or dreaming of him, nor could I be apart from him without physically aching. It was that force we had created, painfully drawing me nearer to him, and in its wake I was no longer myself.

Our love—or whatever variant of it we were experiencing—wasn’t just intense. It was powerful. It could have fed off the stars that aligned for us to meet, or maybe it was the witchcraft I practiced in solace  that I sometimes believed led him to me. In any case, there was power there, and an insurmountable amount of power at that.

But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. And unfortunately, that responsibility became too much for Jake just nights before our live show at the Room Bar. We’d broken up and said our goodbyes. And for the first time in our short-lived relationship, Jacob shed not a single tear. All the same, he showed up to support me at the show, which was kind enough in spite of the fact that he had brought a date.

As I watched them across the bar, doing my best to maintain myself while preparing lighting and sound before the show, as my eyes sank into his from afar while I sang a song of heartbreak all but to him, I learned that night that I didn’t need a man to wield great power, nor to shoulder the burden of great responsibility. I was surrounded by my closest friends and family, people who knew what I was capable of and had come to see me wield that power in complete autonomy. That night, even strangers saw it—lightning bolts boasting from my hands and chest as I delivered line-after-line almost breathlessly, cracking jokes with ingenuity likened to Dorothy Parker and Phyllis Diller. Still, my knight on noble steed was riding something—or, someone—else now. And the thought of him sitting there, taunting me with indignation the likes of which I’d never seen as he whispered to his trollish new beau beside him, I relinquished control of my power.

Enter Ezra—the last person I expected to see entering the bar to watch me whip my tongue in ingenuity and fall apart on stage for the sake of telling a story that was near and dear to my heart. Yet, there he was: the boy I’d forgone without him even knowing  I’d done so because I’d lost myself in a man that it would take me months to forget about.

“I didn’t know you were coming,” I said, approaching with two shots of Fireball and embracing him upon reach. He returned the hug awkwardly.

“Well, I almost didn’t come when I realized how far away this place was …” he laughed, as did I. “But I always want to come and support my friends.”

We took our shots and smiled.

Without even knowing it, he’d ridden in on his own steed—something more akin to a Mini Cooper—and, without knowing it, reminded me that even if Jacob had  turned out to be a total fucking prick, there were people in my life who were capable of going above and beyond without trying to prove some sort of selfish point.

I don’t know that I would have gotten past Jake if I hadn’t had Ezra to distract me with the friendship that would follow.


Dear Anthony,

It’s Ezra … obviously.

Okay, first of all, that’s far too many apologies just to compliment someone. Work on that.

Second of all, fuck you for making me cry about anything other than an animated movie. You know those emotions are foreign to me.

For real though, thank you. You’re too sweet and I feel so lucky that you were persistent enough to accomplish our friendship single-handedly because, as you helpfully pointed out (many, many times) my natural state is ‘uncomfortable’ and it’s difficult for me to manage fostering a friendship with anyone, much less if they don’t put in any effort (like I didn’t). That was unfair of me, so I guess—in some weird, cosmic way—your letter is payback for that. However, this cosmic duel isn’t over.


In October while at a conference in Indianapolis, my phone had suddenly decided to shutter. I could neither receive nor accept calls or text messages. I might be lucky enough to connect to the WiFi, considering it was available. Even then, I felt pretty shut away from the entire world. I was in a city I knew nothing about, incapable of communicating with those back home I missed even after only a few days away. And though I was in the company of friends—new and old—I couldn’t extricate those I’d not seen that week from my mind.

I’d gone to a Verizon in the mall downtown to get my phone looked at. That’s the funny thing about Indianapolis: much of downtown is connected by skywalks leading from building-to-building. So, reaching pretty much anything you needed was no great traverse.

On my way back to the Westin, I passed a Hot Topic—a store I’d not seen the inside of since buying black clothing during a brief bout of depression in high school. But that day, a window display featured a collection of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts memorabilia. My friends at home on my mind, I ventured in, knowing Fantastic Beasts was Ezra’s favorite movie (in spite of J.K. Rowling’s questionable decision making in the time since its release).

I browsed for a moment, finding scarves and t-shirts and keychains. Still, nothing caught my eye right off the bat that I felt would really suffice as a souvenir. 

Then, just as I was getting ready to leave, a plush toy left to be forgotten in the store corner caught my eye from my peripheral. As I turned to look, I realized it was a niffler—a platypus-like creature from Fantastic Beasts known for stealing shiny objects and collecting them in its pouch. No contemplation needed, I snatched the damned thing up and checked out at the register.

Returning to the conference center for lunch, I found Lauren sitting with our new friends Tamara and Micah where Ft. Lauderdale Pride was hosting an elaborate and certainly obscenely expensive lunch for the other Pride organizations. When I sat down and placed the Hot Topic bag in the vacant seat next to me, Lauren looked down and poked her fingers inside of it.

“What the hell could you have gotten from Hot Topic?” she inquired.

“Oh, I got a souvenir for Ezra,” I told her as she pulled it from the bag to examine it.

“Why haven’t you gotten souvenirs for anyone else?” she asked as she toyed with it.

“I bought Alice and Jackie souvenirs yesterday, asshole,” I explained without any real reason to do so.

Mhmm …” she teased. “And what exactly is this?”

“Something from his favorite movie,” I told her. She cut her eyes down at me. “What?”

“Did you also get Alice and Jackie gifts that personal?”

I snatched the niffler out of her hands.

“First of all, fuck off. Secondly, I didn’t go scavenging for it. I just happened to pass a display in the mall.”

“I see …”


I’ve told you before, and I’m not sure if you believed me or not, but you really are the only friend I’ve made since moving to Houston four years ago. Unlike you, I don’t make a lot of friends—I lack the required social skills to maintain casual friendships, which has the happy consequence that all of the friendships I do manage to establish are deeply meaningful and fulfilling. Ours is no exception to that rule.

You are, in a word, intense. You feel and express emotions so deeply and passionately, and in ways that I don’t think I will ever be able to understand. And even though you don’t mean half the things you jokingly say, you somehow still manage to be both brutally honest and sincerely well-meaning … pretty much constantly; and all that through a consistent haze of questionable substance abuse and rampant alcoholism. It’s equal parts inspiring and intimidating, if I’m being honest. You’re crass; you’re loud; and you make all the terrible decisions that parents threaten their children with disownment for making.


A week or so after returning from Indianapolis, Ezra accompanied me to my cousin’s Friday the 13th wedding. My mother’s side of the family is a bit backwoods and the wedding in Cleveland, Texas only furthered that point. On the way there from my mother’s house in Kingwood—a snooty Houston suburb—Ezra mentioned, “This place is making me feel rather at home.”

Ezra was born and raised in Arkansas.

Arriving late, we’d missed the ceremony, which didn’t bother me too much. Straight weddings have a tendency to nauseate me. Still, the reception proved to be a good time. The drinks were strong, and after a while, my cousin had changed out of her wedding dress and came down to take tequila shots, a tradition I very much wanted to be a part of.

The first shot went down fairly easy; and, for me, the second shot did, as well (as did each that followed). However, the moment that the second tequila shot hit the inside of Ezra’s mouth, he immediately gagged and spit the liquor out of his mouth … all over my cousin, Lara, the bride.

“Dear God,” I muttered before erupting into a fit of laughter.

One of the funniest things about Ezra, something he probably doesn’t even realize is comical, is the way in which he can do something embarrassing or klutzy, turn red as a Target ad, and then shrug it off and look up at the sky or ceiling as if nothing happened at all, arms crossed and lips pursed.

When the elders of the family had left, the bridal party, the groom, and his men met behind the garage to pass around joints. I wasn’t driving and didn’t really need to worry about what would happen if I cross-faded. Ezra passed on the weed, and Lara regaled me with stories of how her mother, Sam, had nearly fought the groom’s brother earlier that day when he arrived belligerently drunk. At another point, she leaned into me and whispered some sort of dirty joke, only to comment, “Ezra’s cute. How’d y’all meet?”

“Oh, we’re just friends.” I felt telling the Tinder story might make it seem like I was lying. “He’s here for moral support. Too many straight people in one place.”

It was after that wedding, and then a straight bar, and then a trip to IHOP, that I presented Ezra with the niffler.

He seemed to like it—even impressed by the fact that its pouch was actually functional. 


All of those traits have gotten you to where you are today, the same way that my walls and avoidance of risk have gotten me to where I am today. And, for that, I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. Your journey has been something I am fundamentally incapable of understanding, much less would I be able to try and reproduce it. I believe the fact that we are so radically different plays a massive part in our dynamic and is the driving force allowing us to build off of one another as effortlessly as we do, because I also guarantee that you have helped me become a better person as much as, if not more than, I have helped you do the same. As long as we’re friends, I have no doubt in my mind that you will accomplish every goal you have and then some, and I would love nothing more than to be there celebrating with you when you do.

Which also means this is going to be way more unfair of me than yours was, and I know it’s going to hurt; and for that I truly am sorry. But it’s important to understand how much you’ve had an impact on my life, as well:

You are the sole person who allowed me to fully realize and accept my own asexuality.

Most people reading this (especially you) would probably consider that a slap in the face, but trust me when I say that I mean it as a genuine compliment.


July – the Miller Outdoor Theater – Movie in the Park Night

The film was La La Land, and the only person I knew I could talk into going with me was Ezra. Both lovers of musicals and the theatre, I suspected it might be pleasant for him.

I brought the cheap, boxed chardonnay—the Miller doesn’t allow glass bottles on the hill that overlooks the the giant pavilion-style theatre. Pavilion seats have to be reserved and picked up, but really aren’t worth the trouble, even if they are free. You can’t bring outside food and drinks into the pavilion. The hill provides a full-view of the stage and the sound can be heard as far as the neighboring zoo on the other side of Hermann Park.

Ezra, on the other hand, brought the premade popcorn and his dog—an absolutely dog-ified manifestation of Ezra’s personality. Naturally skittish, anxious, and wary of humans. After a while I realized that they actually sort of look alike, but I chose not to dwell too much on that unsettling fact.

I’m not sure that Ezra really would have enjoyed the film, as I’d later find out that, despite it being a musical, the subgenre wasn’t quite in his favor. Regardless, I’d probably never know. We talked through most of the movie and I fed Dorito—the dog—popcorn through the entire thing to keep him from tripping out over the ridiculously populated hillside.

I looked nice that night. I’d bought a new outfit. It wasn’t for Ezra, mind you. But I’d recently lost twenty pounds and wanted anyone I might run into to be cognizant of that fact.

As we left, however, the sweat had trickled down my face secondary to the intense Houston humidity and the $10 boxed wine that would later give me the worst hangover I’d ever suffer.

On our way out, a few women stopped us to pet Dorito, who was not having any of that nonsense, and sparked a conversation with Ezra and I as they tried with Dorito to no avail.

“So, what are you two up to?” one of the women asked. “A blind date?”

I looked from the woman to Ezra and then back to the woman.

Pardonne moi?” I asked, slightly offended. I’m not sure what made her think that our not-date was a blind date. If it had been a date, would it have been so shocking that we could have been on a date?

Fuck this bitch.

I immediately reached to pull my hair into a ponytail in the event that this escalated into a physical altercation.

However, before it could get to that extreme, Ezra piped up and said, “Oh, God, no. This is like … the furthest possible thing from that.”

This time, I looked from Ezra to the woman and back to Ezra. I could feel the whiplash setting in from how quickly I’d jolted my head back and my eyelids were so widely set apart that I feared an eye may fall out of socket without the support.

I chose not to ask questions about what the fuck the furthest thing from that could possibly be, simply because it didn’t really matter to me. At the time, I was still with Jake. Still, the insinuations sat firmly in the forefront of my mind as I downed the remainder of the boxed wine in my car before driving home.


Young Ezra wasn’t unlike Young Anthony—seeking butterflies. Only, Young Ezra didn’t even know what the butterflies he was seeking were supposed to feel like. Maybe, he would often think, they hadn’t had time to flutter in before the door to his heart was barred shut. Or maybe they made it just in the nick of time, and then the door was sealed too tightly, and they suffocated. In either case, he felt he was on a fruitless journey. The hopeful boys and men who came along with lock-picks and skeleton keys and even crowbars eventually wandered off, not leaving so much as a scratch on the handle. I had convinced myself that the door was barred for good; early-childhood-development Ezra was somehow a genius architect and a masterful bricklayer, able to permanently block off parts of himself from even himself. Nobody until then had been able to prove me wrong.

Enter Anthony, poised on a platform rising up from center stage, surrounded by his vanity lights and wielding a fucking sledgehammer. Down came the door, and the surrounding wall with it.

Unfortunately, that was just an outer wall. Once the dust cleared, I was surprised to see it had revealed something like the hedge maze from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, comprising the interior—constantly rearranging itself to throw off any would-be adventurers from getting to the center, defensive warding spells, probably a sphinx somewhere. Difficult, perhaps, yet finally—triumphantly—navigable.

But no sign of butterflies, alive or otherwise.

I was furious. Here was this wonderfully intense and engaging guy who had brought change and self-enlightenment crashing down on my head in the only way either of us could have managed it. He was wildly successful, charming, witty, genuinely funny, and every other thing you’re normally forced to lie about in your Tinder bio to get people to swipe right before the inevitable non-conversation.

So where were my goddamn butterflies?!


That weekend in Austin, the night following the tumultuous argument at Rain, Ezra, Alice, and I elected to stay in and watch a movie rather than go out with the others. After all, we’d been out since early that morning doing Pride-related work, and I’d already had to pull the car over once so that Ezra could get out and throw up on the side of the road.

A musical was decided upon: The Last Five Years, a favorite of mine.

The thing I hate most about musicals is watching them with other people. I always want the person I’m watching with to enjoy it as much as I do, and often that isn’t the case. Normally, for Ezra and I, we’re capable of enjoying the same shows, but I wasn’t so sure how he’d feel about this particular movie. For one, he wasn’t a fan of Anna Kendrick’s singing voice, which should have been a dealbreaker to begin with. Through the entire movie, as the three of us lay in the bed of our hotel suite, I kept stealing glances at Ezra just to see his reactions to what was happening onscreen.

When Anna Kendrick sang, “I Can Do Better Than That,” I briefly considered telling him a secret about the song I’d never told anyone—something about what made the movie special to me, that song in particular. But when I looked over to tell him, his face was solemn and unmoving, and I made the decision to keep the secret to myself. Maybe after we’d known each other longer, been better friends in the future, I’d share it with him.

I’d never really thought about telling anyone before that.

Instead, I just looked back to the screen and mumbled, “I sang this in a cabaret last year.” That much was also true.

When the film ended, he said nothing, and I immediately turned off the movie and laid back down between he and Alice—who passed out somewhere in the first hour. I didn’t ask anything at first. For a while, we all just laid there in silence, the exception being Alice’s occasional snores to punctuate the quiet. Still, without having to ask, I knew he didn’t have the reaction to the film I’d hoped. If he’d liked it, he would have just said so without prompt.

“So, what did you think?” I asked anyway.

“It was okay,” he told me. “I mean … I feel like there wasn’t really a plot. Nothing really happened.”

I did my best not to scoff and roll my eyes. “It’s about their tumultuous relationship.”

“Yeah, but that’s kind of it. Nothing else goes on.” He sat up and rolled off the bed to go back into the living room. “I’m just not really that into romances.”

I pulled a pillow over my face, suddenly relieved I hadn’t shared my “I Can Do Better Than That” secret.


I felt betrayed by every musical and romance I’d ever seen, betrayed to my very core—which both of those things had played a tremendous role in forming! What was wrong with me? I re-lived every phase of being young and not knowing why I felt (or didn’t feel) the things I was feeling (not feeling?) all over again in rapid succession, only this time porn wasn’t helping.

Then, through an errant Facebook post by a recent acquaintance, I was alerted to the full meaning of the A in LGBTQIA+: asexual/aromantic. After doing some cursory research, I realized this explained how I was feeling to a tee, then proceeded to experience the relief of being able to identify with a minority sexuality all over again, as well. It was a roller coaster, to say the least, but one I’m always glad to ride again.


Twas the night of Friendsgiving, and I was cross-faded to hell and back. It didn’t stop me from drinking, mind you. Lord knows, I’m nothing if not a trooper. Everyone had left but Ezra and Hayden, the latter of which was preparing to leave after telling us about a man with whom he’d be engaging in sex after he left.

“I thought he was married,” Ezra asked me as we sipped the Robert Mondavi Cabernet he’d brought with him.

“He is,” I told Ezra, seated on the barstool next to his in my kitchen. “He and his husband have an open relationship.”

“How does that work?”

“More or less, they can sleep with other people, so long as they don’t do it in their house, and as long as they don’t talk to each other about it.”

Hmm,” Ezra muttered as he watched the refrigerator as if waiting for it to dance. He was high for the very first time in his life, having smoked a ton of weed in the garage with the rest of us earlier that evening. “I think I’d be okay with that,” he went on, sipping his wine.

I looked over at him and asked, “Okay with what?”

“An open relationship,” he muttered. “I mean … if I can’t give someone what they need, being that I’m asexual, and I care about them enough to be with them anyway, I’d be okay with it.”

I stared at him, unresponsive.

Ezra never stopped looking at the refrigerator.


I know it’s probably no real solace to you and you’ll be catching crap for the rest of your life (mostly from yourself, probably) for somehow managing to turn someone away from sex completely, but it has opened the door for me to finally be able to explore and better understand myself as a person after 20+ years of being locked out of my own heart. And that really is incredible.

You are incredible.


While he was to be away visiting his best friends in San Antonio, I volunteered to babysit Dorito at Ezra’s apartment for a few nights. He’d given me the key after we’d seen a movie he’d had his eye on. When he handed it to me, I was struck, forgetting I’d agreed to watch the dog at all.

It was the first time a man had ever given me a key to his apartment—not even Jake had done that. The whole illusion, of course, was only shattered by the reminder of the chore.

“You’re watching my dog this weekend,” he told me.

Riiiiight.

I didn’t stay over, didn’t rifle through his things, didn’t open closed doors (well, except for a closet that I thought was the restroom, where I found a very large, strange, pink unicorn). As I looked around, it was clearly the apartment of a single young man. There were video game consoles at two separate TVs, a couple of dishes in the sink, a bar with loose change and gum resting atop it, but clean nonetheless. He had a nice collection of books in his dining room that I looked through and noted I’d mostly read. Beyond that was a piano keyboard, where some sheet music sat with pencil marks scribbled across it. In his bathroom, where I went to pee, I took note of the cologne on his counter I’d recognized when he wore it. I’d worn the same scent a few years back.

But what caught my eye was what sat next to the television in front of his sectional when I was coming back out of the bathroom.

Perched atop the small entertainment center was the niffler, looking at me almost as though it recognized me. I approached it with the sort of care used to handle ancient manuscripts of alchemy in museums. I was almost afraid to pick it up, to touch anything at all, for fear some sort of alarm might trip. Certainly the niffler had only just been placed there when Ezra was straightening up his apartment before having company. For all I knew, it could have been in the trunk of his Mini Cooper or in Dorito’s cage in the months that had passed since the wedding. Maybe he’d only set it out because he knew I’d be by. 

But I chose not to consider why it was there … just that it was. As I sat down at the keyboard and transposed the key up 6 steps, I pressed gently down on the keys to play the chords of Adele’s “Someone Like You” with my left hand and the recurrent sixteenth-note rhythm with my right.

E-flat.

And, as I sat there with my eyes closed, the niffler seated next to the sheet music before me, humming the chords along with the keyboard, I realized that it didn’t really matter why the niffler was seated on the ledge of the entertainment center.

G-minor/D.

It was there. Something I’d given a friend, because I’d seen it and thought of him, was now a part of the place he lived.

C5.

And, sure, it may someday end up in the closet with that weird, pink unicorn, or maybe it would become a chew toy for Dorito when he was old and crotchety with a heart full of angst.

A-flat.

But at least I knew that when Ezra looked at it, when he came across it while spring cleaning or packing his apartment to move to Denver, he’d know it came from a person who cared enough to remembered these things about him—his favorite movie, his disdain for Anna Kendrick’s singing voice, his open-mindedness to open relationships. He’d know who saw him in the things like that niffler and who smiled at the reminders. 

E-flat.

Whether or not there would be more Jakes in my life would be perennially in question. One thing was for sure, though. 

There certainly wouldn’t be any more Ezras … not even close.

Still, much like being his friend because he might live his whole life with far less than butterflies, I was okay with that. It isn’t his fault that he can’t feel butterflies, despite his efforts over nearly 28 years. If they aren’t hiding in that labyrinth he’s comprised of, then they just aren’t there.

At least he is.

And if that was the worst that came from all of this, it didn’t seem like such a bad thing. In fact, it seemed pretty great from where I was standing. At least I got to know him in a way that most people would never be able to say they did. At least there was really nothing left we couldn’t say to each other when necessary after the openness we’d communicated through these letters. At least we were closer, and maybe as close (or close to as close) as either of us were capable of being. 

Because that’s what love should be, regardless of what weird, singular kind of love that happens to be.


And I do love you.

Just, sans butterflies.

Ezra


For more information about asexuality/aromanticism, please visit the Asexual Visibility and Education Network’s website here.

Finally … Butterflies (… Now What?)

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 8

Dear Friend,

You know who you are, and I know that you’re reading this, as you often make a point of telling me that you read this column. Actually, it’s less so a point that you’re keeping up with my sexual escapades and more so getting in your digs. But I appreciate it, regardless. Anyway, I’m going to tell you a story and explain something to you here that I would never have the nerve to explain to you in person. But before I do, let me just say one thing:

This is not in any way a grand gesture.

Please don’t mistake it for one. I just have things I need to say that I don’t think we could discuss in person. And truthfully … what’s the point? It’s not like any of it changes anything … not like it really matters. But I think at this point, you know me well enough to know that there are some things that stick with me until I say them aloud—or, until I put them in writing, in this case. It’s not about spinning an outcome. It’s not about needing or wanting anything. It’s just one of those things that I can’t fully process or make sense of (if there’s any sense to be made) until I can organize my thoughts in writing. 

I also want to say that I know this is extremely unfair and selfish of me to do right now. And, for that, I really am sorry. You have enough going on. But the real point I want to impress upon you is that this (again) isn’t about any normal crazy white girl shit. It’s not about expectation or anything like that.

I just believe that omission is as bad as being dishonest. So, instead of writing a story here the way that I normally do, I figured I’d just address you. Because, like I said, you’re going to read it anyway, and at least this way it doesn’t seem so much like just another story. But, for the sake of being friends, and having a friendship that I truly enjoy, it does need to be said. And I know that that’s literally the exact opposite of how you deal with things. So, as helpful as this may be for me personally, I am (again) sorry that it’s a selfish thing to do.

So, here’s the story. Don’t freak out. It’s literally just me needing a catharsis. And since you’re gonna read this anyway, I may as well just address you. 

Once upon a time, there was a young man named Anthony who dreamed of what his life what the man he was going to marry would be like, and what it would feel like to be so in love with someone that loved him back just as much. For years, he spent his time acquiring deep infatuation for men that would inevitably treat him like shit and leave him hanging out to dry. And all the while, through all the bad dates and late night booty calls, Anthony found that with each unwarranted dick pic or it’s-not-you-it’s-me, he died just a little bit on the inside. For you see, only one time in his life had he ever been with anyone who made him feel the thing he’d been imagining the feeling of his entire life:

Butterflies.

Each time the person who caused this would come near, or hold his hand, or kiss him atop the head, he could feel wings fluttering inside his tummy. Just that boy’s very smile could wake them up and set them bouncing about inside of him until it nearly tickled. And in his journey to recreate that feeling, Young Anthony found that this seemed less-and-less possible.

However, the days of longing stares and nervous smiles have ceased. It wasn’t all at once. Fast, yes; but like a quick decrescendo more than an abrupt slam on the brakes. In the place of those stares and smiles now were only filthy messages on Grindr and unwelcome hands grazing his body in bars he didn’t really want to be in. And while, for the purposes of getting off, he often welcomed these substitutions, it was never what he truly longed for.

But Young Anthony is a different person now.

I am a different person now. I’m cynical, at times; and I know that butterflies are just scientifically a symptom of the body’s fight-or-flight reaction; and I’m drunk a lot; and I am tired—no. Exhausted, really. I feel like Sex and the City’s Charlotte sitting at a cafe table as she kvetched to her friends, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted. Where is he?” That’s how many men I’ve been through looking for one decent one who isn’t going to pee on me, or tie me up (that story is for next week), or fetishize my weight, or kiss me and then never speak to me, again. 

… and that’s just a few.

Still, I guess somewhere along the way, through all of the white noise that Tinder pings have faded into, I’ve lost sight of the butterflies. And it isn’t because I don’t want them. It isn’t because I don’t miss the feeling. It’s almost as though they just seem so far away that I’m not sure I quite remember what they felt like when I had them. It’s a bit like not being able to see the light at the end of a tunnel, but feeling the heat the entire trek through. Recognizing that feeling now would be hard … or, at least, that’s what I thought.

Then, when I least expected them—maybe even forgot about them—as I was lying there still as I could be while watching a movie with you—someone I’d long-since given up on—those tiny little butterfly feet began to dance around inside of me. From a long dormancy they woke and, as if no time had past since their last adventure, they began to flutter around inside of me.

And it wasn’t a special occasion. It was just us hanging out like we do. You needed a friend, and I was happy to be that friend for you.

It was shocking, at first. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be sick or if I’d eaten too much. But as the movie played over us, you, Ezra recited every last word in broken tandem with the cast. All the while, those butterflies flew around overzealously. It felt like the first day of school mixed with getting a birthday present sprinkled with the relief that follows a sneeze.

But I couldn’t help it. And I wanted to. I really fucking wanted to be in control of what was happening inside of me. Yet, it was endearing and cute and you seemed really comfortable. Which, for the record, I think is really saying something considering how uncomfortable you pretty much always are. And, if I’m being honest (after all, I’m already past the point of no return), all of that scared the living shit out of me.

Why? Well … you’re like one of my closest friends. I have a lot of friends, but not a lot of close ones. Certainly not ones that are easy to be around, that aren’t after something I have, that are almost completely free of drama and histrionics.

Ezra, you came into my life as a Tinder match-turned-friend that not only rejected me, but then had the nerve to be my friend afterward. Granted, that was my doing, which is why, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t mad about that. I embraced it, actually. Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a bad habit of catching feelings for my friends. My first love was my oldest friend in the world; and now I have to be the best man at his wedding … to a woman. But in order to settle the flames that burned when he inadvertently broke my heart, I had to put space between us. Hell. Most of my boyfriends have been people that started off as friends; and in each case, when the page has turned and that chapter has ended, I’ve never been enough of a grown-up to keep the friendship going after.

And that’s another reason I’m not totally uncomfortable saying all of this. It is a bit different with you. I like being your friend a lot, and I haven’t yet behaved that way in this situation. And trust me when I say that the timeline for that has come and gone. And maybe that’s because I barely knew you when you told me you weren’t ready to date anyone (the nicest of the rejections I’ve received in my life). Or maybe it was because you’re actually just a really good person who I think makes me a better person with your friendship. Maybe I’m just drunk too much and have a nasty habit of self-sabotaging. (Truthfully, I think we both know that it’s that last one). Whatever the case, I have somehow gotten really comfortable with just being your friend. And even that freaks me out.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and for me to launch into hysterics. And, yet, that moment has not yet manifested. Granted, some might argue that I’m having a mental breakdown now, and that this column is me going is symptomatic of that. After all, how many sane people use their platform of 12,000 people to have a discussion with their best friend about their feelings? But the fact of the matter is that to be as freaked out as I am, I’m not actually freaking out. 

…do you see the difference? Does that make sense?

Yes, I’m insane. Like … the real kind. And for a while, I couldn’t figure out why I’ve been behaving so rationally to something I—even just a year ago—would normally be devastated over. But then I did figure it out. And it was that night, after eating lukewarm takeout and singing along to a musical we’ve both seen more times than we can remember.

It’s just that I actually think you’re a really special person.

I know, I know. That’s not exactly the most eloquent way to put it. But I’m not sure how else to put it. Because I realize that the things I seem to like most about you as my friend are all the opposite things of all the opposite people I’ve ever felt something for. Because as I sit here thinking about all those opposite people—exes and sex partners and unrequited emotions and best friends and even strangers in bars who tell me I have a beautiful voice and then don’t speak to me for nearly a year after (not bitter, Taylor Kyle)—I cannot even think of a single reason as to why I had feelings for them in the first place.

But, I do know what I like about you. You’re smart; and you don’t take my shit; and you are kind of wonderfully weird. But you also are a person who doesn’t do things they don’t want to do. And despite the fact that I, yes, forced my friendship on you (you’re welcome), you saw it through anyway. And even now you are taking the time to get to know me without my normal, habitual forcefulness playing much of a factor into it. And you don’t write me off as vapid or high-maintenance (although, I know that you do acknowledge the latter) or annoying and loud. You just let me be me. No pretense. No show. No facade. Just me.

That, too, frightens me. I’ve never been someone who waltzes around in their ‘eat me’ short shorts with their hair up and scarfs down chicken tenders and cookies and white wine in front of someone I like—or even my closest friends—and yet there I was the other day doing just that.

I’m comfortable. Probably too comfortable. Which, not to sound like a broken record here, is saying something for someone who—like you—is generally uncomfortable.

Because I live my life in front of people. With my job, with Pride, with my books, even with this column. And some of those people really like me, and some of them cannot stand me. And both of those things are okay, because I’m not playing a role in front of them. I am the person they see. I’m just not always up to being that volume of that person at all times. And you provide a very lovely respite from playing that part. No makeup. No watching how much I eat or drink. No worrying that I’m bitching too much about boys or my mother. And that level of comfort for me is very difficult to come by.

We’re different people in a lot of ways—like … vastly different. You are quiet and like to be alone and you don’t have the sort of highs and lows that I do. You’re walled up. And as much as I may not understand entirely why, that’s who you are. I wouldn’t change that or anything else about you (except your profile picture. It’s not your best. But I’m digressing). But it’s that part of you that somehow brings me down to ground zero (or, at least, my version of ground zero, which is still well above sea level). It’s that part of you that reminds me of how much joy there is to be had in just lying around in short shorts, scarfing down carbs, and talking through the entirety of a movie with someone who doesn’t expect anything of you—that just enjoys your company.

It’s that part of you that brought back my butterflies. So, thank you for that.

And here I am trying to tell you about why you’re great, and I’m simultaneously finding some way to tell you why I think you’re great. I don’t try to be this self-involved, but it always seems to be the case. I’d like to chalk that up to anxiety, honestly. Regardless, I’m sorry about that. And I’m sorry that you are having to get all this weird honesty seemingly out of nowhere and while you’re dealing with your own problems. But I promise I’m almost done. I just want to say a little more.

All the men I’d ever fallen into bed with shared one thing in common:

I’d never fallen for them.

On my quest to revive that feeling of butterflies in my tummy, I’d always come up short. It had always been just that: less than butterflies.

We never did that, thankfully and for lots of different reasons that don’t require reiteration here. And in not doing so, I came to yet another realization.

Maybe the secret to letting those beautiful creatures loose inside me was to not fall in bed with someone at all, but to let them get to know me well enough so that the butterflies felt comfortable enough to take flight.

So, thank you for taking the time to get to know me, in spite of how different we are and in spite of how much I can be at first glance. And thank you for the cookies and the laughter and, of course, the butterflies. And know that this isn’t me expecting anything of you or trying to change anything. I adore our friendship because you are one of the only people in my life who is pretty much down to do whatever I want to do because we have very similar interests (and then some that are not so similar).

But most importantly, thank you for helping me grow up some; and thank you for the lesson that continues to accompany that progress.

You’re going to make someone very happy someday—I don’t need tarot cards to tell me that. And I’ll be so happy for you then. I won’t be surprised, though. Because, it’s as I said before … I just think that you’re a really special person. And sometimes I think that you don’t know how extraordinary you are. Especially now. And a lot of this is coming from that place that I think you deserve the reminder. Granted, I probably won’t remind you that often, because that’s not who I am as a person, but I’m doing it now. You deserve to know. And you deserve to hear some nice things about yourself that maybe not enough people tell you (although that could just be me being presumptuous). Mind you, now I’m just kind of like, “Okay … soooo … now what? I gotta do this all over again with some other dude?” Like … that’s a lot of work. I may just become celibate. Or at least feelings-ibate. I’m too slutty to be celibate.

So, again: I’m sorry to drop all this on you. I don’t really need or want anything. I really didn’t mean to make you feel out of place or weird or put you in an uncomfortable position. I don’t want there to be any sort of rift in our friendship, and I certainly don’t want it to become cumbersome. All of this is coming from a really positive place, and I feel like if we’re going to maintain this wonderful friendship we have, you have a right to not just know (because we both know that you know), but to understand it. And also, it’s kind of just like Paulette says: I just felt like it had to be said.

So, don’t be fucking awkward about it. Jesus. Face value, babe. Face value. And, if you take anything away from this, I hope it’s the reminder that you are cared for, and that there are plenty of people in this world whom you make smile, and some (“for better or worse”) whom you give butterflies. 

Anyway, that’s it. Sorry this was so fucking long. I’ve never been able to say anything succinctly in my life. 

Love ya long time.

Anthony + the Butterflies (#dibsonbandname)

P.S. Please don’t hate me until after we see Hamilton, please.

The Next Five Years

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 11

Most of my bad decisions start the same way … most.

“I have goodies,” Hope told Derek and me as she handed us a bag of mushrooms at the bar one evening. I immediately popped one in my mouth.

“Thank God,” I said as I chewed. “I really need to be high.”

“Ezra stuff?” Hope asked as she poured me a drink.

“The least of it all, yes. Work stuff, household stuff, I-haven’t-had-sex-in-over-a-week stuff.” I put another into my mouth. “Nothing new.”

“How did your grand gesture go?” she inquired.

“First of all, it was not a grand gesture. Secondly, it’s fine. I mean … I haven’t cried yet, so that’s good.”

Derek, as well, pushed a mushroom stem between his lips. “You’re self-medicating.”

“Only because my primary care physician got busted by the DEA.” I looked around the bar. Soon, the year-round decorative Christmas lights would dance like pixies and the music would take a visual manifestation right before me. The problem was that it wasn’t happening quickly enough.

“So, I take it that means you won’t be planning a honeymoon anytime soon,” Hope said.

“Or ever,” I shrugged.

The clocked ticked for an hour, and in that time I’d managed to indulge in half the bag of mushrooms, as compared to Derek’s three or four. As the effects began to strike him, I grew increasingly jealous that I was still feeling absolutely nothing. In spite of the fact that I often participated in taking recreational drugs, I wasn’t willing to confess to myself that my tolerance might just be building up. It’s not like hallucinogens were favorites of mine. Stimulants were more my speed (no pun intended).

But as the hours went on, the mushrooms began to work their way into me. Looking down at my hands a few times, I swore I could see them growing right in front of me. As the bar partook in karaoke, I began to witness colors coming from the speakers, a different hue for a different pitch. The giggling was the next giveaway. I giggled at any and everything from the controversial drunk girl at the bar who sang “Before He Cheats” in the key of stop singing to Derek fooling with some sort of magnetic, top toy that spun around and around on rails, which I proved incapable of operating.

Soon enough, I realized I needed to go home before the mushrooms hit any harder. Derek pressed the bag into my hand and asked me to take the rest of them and sent me on my way.

Ubering home, I dozed off quietly in the backseat as the driver hummed along to Tejano music and asked questions I ineffectively answered through sleepy lips.

Act One

EXT. DENVER, CO – DOG PARK – AFTERNOON – 2020

It was chilly outside, as the weather usually goes in Colorado. What would probably be an 89° April day in Houston turned out to be a harsh 65° afternoon in Denver. Dorito clung to my side after using the restroom and I clicked away at the keys on my laptop. I was trying to meet a book deadline that was only a month away, but my progress had been … minimal, to say the very least.

Chapter One: read the top of the page. Sitting there as housewives jogged with their pups and canines sniffed one another for safety, ideas were fleeting.

Moving to Denver had been a demonstrative effort on my part to show Ezra just how much I cared about him. It wasn’t necessarily futile, as you had to have established expectations in order to fail. And if I’d learned anything since being with Ezra, it was that expectations were wastrel. Not in a practical sense, of course. There were sweet little things he did that often elated the heart or at least proved that those giddy feelings I’d first felt for him three years prior were still alive and well. He might stop on his way home from teaching and pick out peanut butter cookies from a local bakery or order tickets to a traveling musical that was coming through the city.

But, as we’d established oh-so long ago, our relationship would always lack that which other couples did not. There wasn’t any sex, nor was there much cuddling or hand-holding. For all intents and purposes, we may as well have been roommates that shared a bed and, now, a dog.

But I’d known since the first time we’d hung out that this was his plan. Ezra wanted to leave Houston behind—a city for which he’d never developed a great affinity—and move to Denver to teach math. It was ironic, in some sense, considering how much he despised children and that any time I even so much as brought up the subject of them, he all but shut down and receded into some internal well he’d dug for himself.

Or maybe I’d dug it for him. With my pushiness and my willingness to follow him wherever he went so that he wouldn’t ever suffer the loneliness I’d faced in the past. But even in doing so, I knew it would have been no bother to him. Ezra enjoyed the solitude. Welcomed it, even. He was a creature of habit and one that required time to himself—something I took no issue with giving him. Still, I wondered back them if he’d adjust well to being in Denver alone the way he’d come to and existed in Houston for so very long.

We’d been there for six months, and not much was happening for me. Not even a year before, I’d been running a popular magazine in my city and releasing my sixth book into the world. My agent had pestered me for months to write another; and despite the lies I fed her from across the country, no lightning bolts of inspiration had struck. They say that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but the truth of the matter was that, in Houston, it had struck me at least those six times.

Why hadn’t lightning struck Denver?

Chapter One: … I’m Out of Fucking Ideas.

INT. EZRA & ANTHONY’S APARTMENT – LATER

“Hey, babe,” I called as I knocked the door open with my foot—groceries piled into one arm and Dorito’s leash bound to the other.

“Hey,” he replied with a smile from the couch where he played some video game about which I knew nothing. That was sort of the routine, then. I spent the mornings cleaning the house and tending to the laundry while Ezra went to teaching high school mathematics. In the afternoons, I went out with the dog to either a coffee shop or the dog park or to run errands while I made efforts to spur out some kind of idea for the next great American novel. Meanwhile, this gave Ezra a few hours of alone time to decompress after spending his day combating the heathens he preached equations and arithmetic to all day long. “Write anything today?”

“Absolutely not,” I replied, stepping into the kitchen as I put away vegetables and bottled water. “It’s like my brain threw the kind of fit a petulant child throws when it finds out it has to move and decided to give me the silent treatment.”

“When’s the deadline?” he asked, getting up and taking a seat on a barstool at the island.

“A month from today,” I sighed, grabbing a bottle of Ozarka and popping off the lid. “Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m a pretty good writer … but I’m not that good.”

“What happens if you don’t meet it?”

“Eh,” I told him, gulping down some water. “I can always ask for a slight extension, if I can actually come up with an idea and prove that I’m nearly done. But the advance from the publisher paid for this apartment, and if I don’t come up with something, we’re going to have to sell it to pay it back.”

“I doubt it will come to that,” he said reassuringly. “You’re pretty good at what you do.”

“I like to think so,” I told him as a flutter took place inside my abdomen.

There they were: the butterflies that kept me here. Kept me by his side. It was true that I now tended to follow in stride behind him, that he took the front seat while I sat in the shadowy back seat waiting for my turn to drive again (a poor analogy considering that Ezra hates driving). It was nice, the relief of the pressure; don’t get me wrong. Still, it was an adjustment. It was nothing like what I’d built myself up to over my near decade of adulthood.

“Maybe you just need to get out of the house for a bit,” he suggested, reaching for a bag of chips on the counter and opening it.

“I’ve been out of the house every day since we got here. I could probably map out all the Starbuckses and dog parks in Denver.”

He laughed, then crunched on, “I mean like … go out. You haven’t been to a single bar since we got here. Which, to be honest, troubles me considering how much you like to drink.”

“I do love drinking,” I replied. “It’s my third favorite thing to do after eating and being mad at people for attention.”

“So, go make some friends,” he told me.

I nodded and sipped my water some more. Maybe he was right. Maybe if I got out and saw … well … people, it may actually inspire me to write about them. A theatre teacher I had in high school gave us an assignment once that required the class to separately go out in public and listen casually in on conversations happening around us. The objective was to take one line or exchange and build a scene and characters around it.

Maybe that would pull me out of Comarado.

“Maybe I will …” I muttered, biting a lip and staring past him out the window. You could see the downtown skyline from our living room window. The adjacent side of the house faced rows of mountains, but the city had always been so much more inspiring to me than anything in nature.

“Well, I have something for you that might make you feel better,” he told me as he stood up and walked over to his briefcase that sat on the coffee table. He popped it open and reached inside for a plain, white envelope before handing it across the island to me.

I stared at it for a moment with a familiar queerness in my eyes. I ripped open the side with little care, then hit the open end against the granite countertop until two tickets fell out before me. I flipped them over so that they were right-side-up and pushed my glasses up on my nose to read them.

Wicked: A New Musical, they read across the top. Almost twenty years on Broadway later, Wicked was anything but new. The date was several months away and the seats were in the front mezzanine, but what took me was that they weren’t for a national tour. They were, in fact, printed from the Gershwin Theater in New York City.

“Omigod!” I shouted. “Seriously?”

“Happy birthday.”

It was April the 22nd, and it was, in fact, my birthday.

I’d nearly forgotten.

I ran around the counter and embraced Ezra. “Thank you so much! I’m so excited.” I told him. I pulled away, arms still draped over his shoulders and around his neck. It was instinctive to want to kiss him, but as my forehead pressed against his and I could feel his breath slithering past me, I stopped myself and stared into his eyes for a moment.

Ezra was an asexual and aromantic person. This was the person I’d signed up to spend the rest of my life with. This was the life I had chosen and that he hadn’t asked me to choose. So, instead, I pecked him on the cheek, hoping to alleviate some of the pressure, then slid the tickets back into their envelope.

“I love you,” I told him.

“I love you, too.”

“So, do you want to go out with me?” I asked, as I began walking toward the bedroom.

“I think I’ll hang here with Dorito. Go make friends for your birthday,” he told me as I traced into the closet to find an outfit to wear. Fifteen minutes later, my hair was done, my makeup was on, and I was wearing clothes I hadn’t touched since buying them when we first arrived. An outfit of all black accented with a Versace scarf weaving through my hair.

“Okay, well I’m going to that bar Pride & Swagger. I hear it’s pretty lowkey.” I picked up my wallet off the bar and slid it in my back pocket. “Text me if you change your mind.”

I knew he wouldn’t.

INT. PRIDE & SWAGGER – LATER

The bar was quiet, but it was still early. I’d had a few drinks and sat with my laptop perched atop the bar probably looking like an idiot. The bartender, Charlie, checked on me every few minutes and chatted with me about my move from Houston. He’d even bought me a birthday shot when he checked my ID.

“I just met another guy from Houston last night. He said he’d be stopping back in after some conference he’s in town for,” Charlie went on as I stared down at that empty Word document on my laptop screen.

“Maybe I know him,” I teased.

The door behind me chimed, and Charlie simply said, “Speak of the devil,” as he checked the time on his iPhone 34. Those things seemed to be regenerating faster than ever in 2020. I didn’t bother to turn to see the mysterious man from Houston, but focused on the details of the bar around me. Hopefully, if I could paint the picture, I could write the scene.

“Welcome back,” Charlie said with a smile as the barstool next to mine pulled out.

“Good to be back,” the replying voice cooed, sending chills down my spine.

It couldn’t be

I looked up to my left and found that it actually was. Not yet seated in the stool next to me stood Dylan—the most attractive man I’d ever had sex with in my entire life.

The first man I ever told my rape story to.

“Oh, my big, fat, Jewish God,” I mumbled as my mouth gaped stupidly at him.

“I thought that was you,” he told me with a smile. He looked good—better, if that was possible. His beard was more neatly trimmed and his clothes clung to each cut of his Adonis-like figure.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him, standing up to hug him.

“So, it looks like you two do know each other,” Charlie laughed as he reached for my glass to refill it.

Dylan regaled me with the story of how he’d gotten to Denver. An attempt at making it big in Nashville had started off full of hope and spry, but had ultimately become too much. Bills had mounted, food was more and more scarce, and his tricky habit for alcohol had all but bankrupted him. So, he’d moved to Colorado Springs to be with family while he got back on his feet, and eventually ended up here were the dispensaries weren’t so far apart.

“What brought you here?” he asked.

“Oh, my boyfriend,” I told him with a roll of my eyes. “He always wanted to move here. Finally did. I followed.” I shrugged. I felt safer mentioning Ezra to him. It established boundaries, I thought. True, Ezra had been clear with me long ago that he was not opposed to being in an open relationship since his sexual prowess was virtually nonexistent, it still felt like something we needed to discuss before I pursued it. Still, as the night went on-and-on, the drinks seemed stronger-and-stronger. And as the lights went down in the bar, they all seemed to land on Dylan as he lamented tales of Nashville and failed relationships and sex and travels.

My phone vibrated a few times, but I was either too intoxicated in the conversation to look at it or I was getting a little too drunk to care.

“You look amazing,” Dylan told me. His head leaned against the palm of his hand, which had the connecting elbow placed on the bar. “You look younger, somehow.”

“I stopped snorting coke,” I told him. It may have seemed like a joke, but it wasn’t entirely false. Then his hand ran across my thigh, and his emerald eyes stared into mine with piercing intensity. “I wonder a lot why we stopped hooking up,” he laughed.

“I fell in love with someone else …” I told him.

“Do you still love him?” he asked, leaning in just a bit, his other hand trailing up my side with his fingertips toward the back of my neck.

“Of course I do,” I confessed. And I did. Nothing could change that.

“Answer me after this,” he whispered as he pulled gently on the back of my neck into a kiss.

It was weird.

You know, after not having sex in … Jesus I don’t even remember how long it had been at that point. Regardless, I expected something like fireworks or sparks or … butterflies.

But none. None at all.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” a voice came from behind.

I pulled away from Dylan and whipped around on my barstool. Standing there, expressionless and pale as copy paper, was Ezra.

“Ezra … wait …”

But he was gone. Just that quick, he had whipped out the door.

“Don’t worry about h—” Dylan tugged at my wrist.

“I have to go …”

“Your tab is still open,” Charlie said. “Your credit card is here.”

“Just run it. I’ll come back for it.”

I dashed out the door and onto the sidewalk, looking left and then right for Ezra. From afar, I caught a glimpse of him hailing a cab at the street corner.

“Ezra!” I yelled, running toward him. He looked up and then opened the cab door. “Ezra, don’t leave!” I approached just in time to slam the door shut. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know he was going to do that. I didn’t even know he’d be here. He just … he just showed up there. One minute the bartender was telling me another guy from Houston had been there, and the next he was there again.”

“Oh, right. You had no idea that he’d be there tonight.”

“You’re the one who told me to go out tonight! I didn’t plan this!”

“When I said go out and have a drink, I meant vodka or wine, not ejaculate or spit.”

“I did not sleep with him, Ezra. That’s not fair.”

“You don’t sleep with me, either. That doesn’t mean it’s not cheating.”

I slapped my palm against my forehead. “You’re asexual, Ezra. You told me years ago that you’d be okay with an open relationship.”

“We were drunk. I didn’t even remember saying that until you wrote about it in your slut column.”

I took a step back. My mouth fell open and my arms dropped to my side. He’d never spoken to me like that. In fact, he’d never actually said a mean word to me in the years we’d known one another.

“Slut?” I huffed out. “Isn’t that what you think I am? A slut? Because if I remember correctly, I gave up sex to be with you and then to come to this godforsaken city with you where I have no friends, an unfinished book, a dog who only likes me when the takeout is delivered, and a boyfriend who thinks I’m a slut.”

“I DIDN’T ASK YOU TO MOVE HERE WITH ME.”

And there it was—the well I’d dug not just for him, but for me, as well. The one I’d pushed him down into, then jumped behind him in because I didn’t want to be without him. And now? It was all being thrown in my face. All being spit back at me. And why? What had I done wrong before this one thing? Loved him? Cared for him? Since we’d been together, he’d at least been eating real meals and not combination Pizza Rolls and frozen fish sticks. At least the house stayed tidy and the dog didn’t have to spend the day in a kennel. At least someone had wanted to be there to cheer him on when he gave up his amazing job in accounting to teach math to some prepubescent brats. Wasn’t it ironic that the person who once told me I experienced feelings with an intensity he may never feel was now shouting at me out of hurt in the middle of the street?

I felt like a fool.

And as he opened the cab door and jumped inside, my knees wobbled, and then they gave. I fell to the concrete crying. Wailing. Drunk and wailing in the middle of downtown because I fucked up the best thing in my life.

And then it began to rain.


“Hey, buddy,” the Uber driver’s voice called. My eyes opened in quick, irritable flutters. I looked around the back seat and realized we were parked outside my house.

“Shit,” I muttered. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” I muttered somewhere between apologetically and groggily.

The Uber driver only shrugged and said, “Better in my car on the way home from the bar than in yours.”

He had a point there.

I walked into the house, the mushrooms still very much alive inside of me. I was suddenly famished, but the light inside the refrigerator was too distracting for me to find anything to eat. Instead, I laid down on the couch, visions of Ezra screaming at me swimming around in my head. I wondered briefly if it were possible to go back to that dream if I closed my eyes. Just to find resolve to the story. Just to see how it ended.

Act Two

INT. DOWNTOWN HOUSTON LIBRARY – 2021

The Julia Ideson building was absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous. Standing inside of it, with its marble columns and its perfectly polished wooden floors and its arched windows, it finally dawned on me for the very first time:

In less than twenty-four hours … I would be getting married here.

And this man, this beautiful, beautiful man was standing on his feet before all our family and friends inside this gorgeous building toasting my family, my friends, and me. And in less than twenty-four hours, in this historic homage to Houston’s very first head librarian, Julia Bedford Ideson, I would marry this man.

He stood there, so brave, and tall, and sure, and sweet, holding up his champagne flute and smiled from his mother to mine and then back to me.

And I’d never been happier.

“And to my fiance’s friends,” he said with certainty typically reserved for lying politicians and Amazon customer representatives, “Thank you for making this man the man that he is today. Thank you for letting him crack all the jokes he’s cracked about you, and for letting him cry all the tears he’s cried over men like me. Thank you for never turning him away. Thank you for being here and handing him off to me. Without you, he would not be the person I fell in love with.”

With that, my wonderful would-be groom took his seat next to me, leaned in, and kissed me in front of everyone as the crowd clapped and cheered. Then, when the kiss was over, he leaned in, ever-smiling, and whispered into my ear, “What the actual fuck is he doing here?” before cutting his eyes away from me and looking directly at Ezra, who sat on the opposite side of the room.

“Can we not do this now?” I asked as I continued smiling and turned back to the face the others who sat at the spread of tables before us.

“You told me you weren’t inviting him,” Matt Kersey said through gritted teeth.

“No, you told me not to invite him, and I invited him anyway, because he’s my friend,” I responded in similar fashion. “Jesus, Matthew. It’s not like I made him my best man.”

“And who the hell shows up without a date to a wedding rehearsal dinner?”

“Someone who doesn’t date because he’s asexual,” I replied.

“Or someone who has feelings for you and knows you’ve been in love with him for years,” he snipped.

“I promise you, that has never been an issue. He has never had feelings for me, and I have never been in love with him,” I reassured him as I downed my entire glass of champagne. “Can we please talk about this when we get home?” I asked.

“No, actually, we can’t,” he informed me as he sipped his own champagne.

“And why not?”

Just then, a pair of hands grabbed me by either shoulder and yanked me back in my seat. As I tossed my head up to see who was there, I found myself looking directly into Stephen’s eyes. He smiled down—drunkenly, mind you—at me with all his teeth exposed and the faint scent of vodka dripping into my nose.

“Guess what!”

“No. NO! Not tonight. I have to get married tomorrow,” I told him as I did my best to pull from his clutches.

“That’s too bad,” he said with a roll of his eyes as he squatted down behind me and placed his head on my shoulder. “Matt already said we could have you for the night,” he went on. “Besides, isn’t it bad luck for the groom to see the other groom before the wedding?”

“I’m not sure that’s how that particular superstition goes—”

“Let’s go,” he told me as he pulled me up under the shoulder. I reached for Matt’s champagne flute and drank what was left inside of it. “We’re having a girls’ night.”

“Okay, okay,” I told him as I found my footing and pulled out of his clasp. “Let me tell my fiancé goodbye, first, please,” I all but implored.

With that, I reached for Matt’s hand and pulled him up, as well, pulling him in close to me. Chest-to-chest. Pelvis-to-pelvis. Nose-to-nose.

“You don’t need to worry about Ezra,” I mumbled. “I love you. This is it. This is how our fairy tale ends. Me and you. That’s it.”

Matt smiled and leaned in to kiss me, but I pulled back. For a moment, in typical Anthony fashion, I nearly lost my balance and fell to the floor. But Matt Kersey being Matt Kersey, his arms weaved around my waist and kept me from toppling over into what—with my bad luck—would have probably resulted in a major concussion.

“Tell me you believe me,” I ordered.

“I do believe you,” he agreed, smiling and kissing me in a long, swoon-worthy embrace. “And I love you, too,” he told me.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket.

11:59.

“Perfect. Now stop looking at me,” I told him as I pressed my hand in his face and pushed him away. “It’s midnight. I don’t want to jinx anything.”

INT. THE ROOM BAR – LATER

They were all there. Every single one of the people who had made the last few years so memorable, so wonderful, were all there with me celebrating my engagement. Stephen, Lauren, Courtney, Hope, Alice, Derek, Jeremy, and … yes … Ezra.

‘”It’s weird. Right?” Stephen asked as he ordered us shots from Hope at the bar.

“Which part?” I asked with a laugh.

“This is what you’ve wanted as long as I’ve known you.”

Which part?” I reiterated with a laugh.

“All of it. The books, the job, the fame, the man. And now you’re getting married. Shit, you’re getting married before me and Leo, and we’ve been saying that we’re going to for years.”

“You’re next,” I told him as Hope handed us our shots.

“For the soon-to-be-groom and his best man,” she said with a wink. “On me.”

“You’re so sweet,” I told her as I smiled and blew her a kiss. “You’re the best.”

“Actually,” Stephen said as he raised his glass. “I’m the best … best man.” I raised my glass up and clinked his.

“Don’t make me regret that decision,” I told him with a wink and a smile.

We took our shots and smiled at one another. There was that earnest, honest look in Stephen’s eyes I’d only seen one other time before. It was years ago, the night he’d been heartbroken at Rich’s when I’d rushed home from Galveston to console him.

“Let’s do it,” he said with his toothy smile, shaking his head once from one side to the next. “For old time’s sake,” he went on.

“Stephen, no,” I said with a laugh.

“C’mon,” he said. “You aren’t married, yet.” And without missing another beat, without waiting for another moment to conjure itself and beget stagnation, Stephen wrapped his arms around my waist, pulled me in close, and kissed me for the second time in our long friendship.

It was a nice kiss. And while the similarity was present in its sweetness, that’s where it ended. Because without him even knowing it, Stephen had reminded me that this would be my very last kiss as an unmarried person to a man I was uninvolved with. It was warm and soft and exciting. There was magic there. And a part of me wondered, as our lips stayed locked together, and our breaths kick-boxed in the narrow space between our noses, if I wasn’t a little sad that Stephen and I had never tried a relationship. After all, he was kind, and hyper-intelligent, and funny to a fault. In every zodiac and tarot spread and prophecy, we were 100% compatible. Again … to a fault. But the stars had missed their alignment by just a fragment of an inch, and that destiny had never quite come to fruition.

“Am I interrupting something?” a voice echoed behind us.

Without pulling apart at first, our eyes opened and our lips stayed pressed together while we smiled and enjoyed a lasting look at each other one last time.

“Not at all,” I said as I turned, blushing, to face Ezra.

“I um … I was about to head out, so I wanted to tell you goodbye,” he said with a smile.

“I’ll walk you to your car,” I offered, stepping toward him. I turned back to Stephen, “I’ll catch you in a minute.”

“Call me Amelia Earhart, because I feel like I am about to get lost in a triangle!” he cackled at his own joke. I waved him off and led Ezra outside by the hand.

It took only seconds to traverse to his car, and there was silence for a long moment as I smiled at him and he looked around the sky curiously.

“Say something,” I finally told him as I let out a small laugh and lightly kicked him in his shin.

“There’s nothing to say,” he chuckled. “Well, I mean, except for congratulations and that I’m happy for you, and that I love you.”

I smiled and opened my arms to him.

“I love you, too,” I told him as I wrapped him in a hug that lasted probably a moment longer than he was comfortable with. But being the friend that he was, he didn’t pull away until I’d drained him of every last drop of affection he had inside him.

He stepped into his car, and I leaned against that of some stranger. He waved as he ducked inside, and I blew him a kiss. He put the car in reverse, and I never let my eyes leave him.

That was the man I had developed the most beautiful friendship with years after telling him I might love him. That was the man who had confessed how he’d loved me, too, but that his own body had failed him when it came to romance and sex—that those sorts of emotions didn’t exist within him and that he couldn’t reciprocate those feelings. That was the man I was convinced, for a short while, that I might spend the rest of my life with.

And he was driving away, now. And I was happy to have him as my friend. And I watched him as he took off down FM 2920. And I shed a single tear knowing that he’d made me a better person, prepared me for the big love I was soon to stumble upon.

INT. DOWNTOWN HOUSTON LIBRARY – WEDDING DAY

Stephen, Alice, Derek, and Lauren all look down the aisle before me. They were linked arm-in-arm by Matthew’s own party of groomsman and women. And when the wedding march began to play, and the large, double doors opened before me, I do believe that I stopped breathing.

I was about to give my entire life away to a man—a man I could see like an ant upon the ground on the other end of the library. And he loved me, and I him. And someday we would raise children together, and maybe move into some inner-loop suburb on some fancy side of Houston. But today, we would stand before those we loved more than anyone else in the world, and we would profess our love, and then we would go home to our tiny apartment, and pack our bags, and fly out to New York City the very next day where we’d spend time seeing musicals and drinking with locals and shopping in barrios. We’d do our best not to seem too touristy, but the glee and love would be evidence enough.

So, in my custom-made wedding attire—inspired by Hindu wedding garbs with a touch of couture and a Dolce & Gabbana scarf holding my hair back—I marched down the aisle all dressed in white—ironic, considering my sexcapades—and forced myself not to look at anyone I passed along the way.

Then, when I made it to the very front of the room, I stood across from him, a minister going through the motions and us reciting our vows. And when asked if he took me to be his lawfully wedded husband, Matt, crying, said, “I do.”

And when the minister asked the very same of me … I froze.

My force to not look around at everyone evaded me, and I looked around the room to see who all sat before me with smiles and teary eyes. My mouth fell open, and I suddenly needed a drink. And my eyes, they bounced from Hope, to Derek, to my mother. And they landed once on Stephen, and I was reminded of that 11th-hour kiss. Then they washed over man after man I’d fallen for or fallen into bed with. And when they hit Ezra, who looked impatient and was also somehow crying joyfully, I turned back to Matt.

His eyes widened. His hands clenched around mine. The room was silent.

“I … I …”

One last look. One last look at all of them.

“I have to pee.”


What would certainly end up being a urinary tract infection woke me from my slumber. I sat straight up and ran to the restroom, where I sat and peed for nearly five minutes. But at that point, I realized my high was gone, and I knew if I didn’t get it back, neither of my stories would get their happy ending.

So, without washing my hands, I dashed back into the kitchen, grabbed the remaining mushrooms in the bag, and shoved them in my mouth before running up to my bedroom and getting back into bed.

The thoughts, however, the questions that accompanied my ridiculously realistic dreams, kept me up for another hour. Before I could fall back asleep, the sun had begun to rise.

But the moment that I did, I was nearly certain that what I’d been looking for was coming.

Act Three

INT. BABA YEGA – BRUNCH – 2023

I began each morning by telling myself that being single at 29 was perfectly normal and that being alone was more a state of mind than a level of existence.

I was full of shit.

Now home from his honeymoon and resettled back into his life, Stephen droned on and on about the beauty of Spain and all the Spanish gay orgies he and Leo had been to while in Madrid. I guessed every couple should be left to begin their own traditions. Leo and Stephen’s idea of a honeymoon, as if it could get no gayer after factoring in the orgies, was a two-week-long trip across most of Western Europe, in which they visited every city known for its fashion imaginable. From Paris to Milan to Madrid and, of course, Amsterdam (because in 2023, leather was fashionable again), the couple celebrated their open-relationship-turned-open-marriage, Donald Trump no longer being the president, and the child they’d soon be adopting from China now that their lives were more intact and they’d moved out of their shitty, one-bedroom, Avondale apartment.

Gag me.

“So, what have you been up to? What’s new with you?” Stephen asked as we rounded into our third carafe. Being drunk now, I wasn’t even sure why I’d bother to tell him, as I knew he’d spend most of the time formulating something else to say and inevitably interrupting me mid-sentence one hundred times.

“Nothing really,” I confessed as I popped a grape into my mouth.

“What? We haven’t seen each other since my wedding and that was almost a month ago.” Stephen guzzled mimosa. “You have to have had something new happen. A new book? A new boy?”

“My life does entail more than books and boys, you know,” I sighed, a bit annoyed. I shook it off. “No, nothing really. Everything is just as it was when you left.”

“What about the guy you brought to the wedding? What was his name? Jake?”

“Jake is nothing more than my ex that I sometimes have sex with and take to events because we’re both single.”

“Then why not try getting back together with him?”

I laughed. Stephen had been around throughout the entire Jake situation. He knew that there was really no going back there. Often, I wondered if he asked such questions because the older that we got, the less we had to talk about. Our similarities never changed, but priorities often did.

“Nah,” I went on. “It’s not worth going through all that shit again. He’s very spiteful when he shoulders bad feelings for someone. Any little fight we had always turned into histrionics the likes of which I can’t even verbalize.”

Stephen looked across the table at me as he forked waffle into his mouth. He gave that seductive little smile of his. “Sounds perfect for you.”

I laughed, though it was forced. “Oh, fuck off.” I pushed my plate away, full somehow from just the small portion of fruit I’d eaten. “So, are we still on for Legally Blonde on Friday?”

Stephen looked up from his plate. “Is that this Friday?” he asked, scrolling through the calendar on his phone. “Shit. I totally forgot and that’s the day we’re supposed to leave to pick up the baby.”

“Seriously, Stephen? You’re blowing me off for your dumb baby? You never even wanted kids!”

“First of all, my kid is Asian, so I doubt she’ll be dumb. Secondly, things change. Now, I want kids. Is that so bad?”

“Yes, actually, it is. It especially is when it interferes with my plans to see Legally Blonde: The Musical.

“Take Courtney! She’s been to musicals with you before,” he optioned.

“Only because Ezra and I were going and she wanted a lowkey first date with Jennifer.” I picked up the carafe to refill my champagne flute.

“Well, then take Ezra!”

The carafe fell out of my hand and hit the ground with a clatter. Had I not just emptied it into my glass, I might be more upset. “Ezra has not spoken to me in five years.” My voice was squeezing between my gritted teeth.

“No, you have not spoken to Ezra in five years,” Stephen went on as he scarfed down bacon. He’d gained a little weight over the last few years, but he carried it well. Long gone were the days of the lanky Stephen I’d first met at Pride Houston in 2016. 35-year-old Stephen actually looked better than ever. He was one of those people who only got better-looking as they aged. I despised that about him. Still, he was my best friend through-and-through. Certainly we fought like all other friends, sometimes not speaking for months when that happened. But somehow, some way, through all our own hubris and stubbornness, Stephen and I always went back to being friends. There weren’t a lot of others to be had, it seemed. “And you only haven’t spoken to him because you don’t handle rejection well.”

“I handle rejection the best way I know how. And that’s not why I stopped speaking to him. I’m no child,” I pressed. “It was never the fact that he rejected me. It was the fact that he rejected me and chalked it up to his asexuality, then months later went out and met some Asian Jew and didn’t have time for his friends anymore. And what’s so special about an Asian Jew anyway? I’m Jewish, too. A Mexican Jew, which is far more interesting if you ask me.”

“Have the Asians done something specific to you that’s made you so bitter toward them?”

“It’s not all Asians. Just the ones who are taking all my people away from me.”

It was a cutting remark, certainly, regardless of the intent of it being a joke. In truth, it had nothing to do with Asians, but rather was due to a supreme feeling of once again never being good enough for anyone to consider dating seriously.

With Jake, our entire relationship had been real, even if it had initiated as a means of me helping him complete his dissertation. But the ultimate and final battle had been the same as so many before it: he couldn’t see spending the rest of his life with me. Adam, a man I’d dated for only a few short weeks, and I had broken up in similar fashion. True, our relationship had only happened because I was thick and Adam fetishized that. Still, when he and I broke up, it all came down to the future he had pictured and how I didn’t fit into it. Dylan was another problem, but the same in theme and tone: he didn’t want to settle down. He wanted to hook up without strings attached, which I was able to at some point stray away from. Matt Kersey may have been the sweetest prospect, but he and I never dated. Jeremy and I probably could have been something–his mother and Hope had both certainly hoped so. But Jeremy’s feelings for me only surfaced when he was shitty drunk, which to me felt like a bit of a deal breaker. And every man before or after or in between had been nothing but a meaningless sex partner with whom there had been no spark.

And of all the men in Houston–and a handful abroad–I’d met few whom ever brought me that warm feeling for which I so desperately yearned. And the older I got, as I began to flirt with thirty and as the fleeting moments of joy and euphoria brought on by cocaine and mushrooms and drunken karaoke nights at bars became fewer and further between, I couldn’t help but wonder if it really was me. Maybe there was something about me that just repelled men away … that made them think I wasn’t good enough. In the last five years, I’d become more successful, sure. My face reflected my age more, of course. My body had changed and then hadn’t. But other than those few things, little was different about me. I was still loud, still crass, still intimidating, still funny, still hard-working, still kind. And the still to steal them all was still the same, as well:

Still single.

“I’ll go alone,” I told Stephen as the waiter came by to present our checks. I pulled a credit card from my wallet as Stephen reached for his own. “I’ve got it,” I told him, curling one side of my mouth up to resemble something adjacent of a smile. “Happy baby week.”

We were gone moments later. And as much as hated to admit it to myself, as much as I tried to wish away the feeling, I knew that would be the last time Stephen and I spent time together uninterrupted by shrill, baby cries or PTA meetings or book tours or a traverse outside the loop where he and Leo would eventually settle down in a suburb and raise their new child and the two more they’d have in the three years to follow.

We weren’t different. In fact, we were still very much the same. The only difference was that Stephen had gotten his happily ever after. Mine, however, was somewhere far from sight.

EXT. THE MILLER OUTDOOR THEATRE – THAT FRIDAY

I’d seen the same production of Legally Blonde on that same stage seven or so years ago. The cast was comprised of amateurs, though none that were out of their league in terms of talent. Only this time, instead of being joined by Alice and Max, I found myself sitting on the hill alone, humming the tunes along as the company belted out one after the next.

I’d arrived early enough to pick out the perfect spot at the foot of the hill, dead center. I’d learned after years and years that planning was important when attending a performance, as the crowds came in droves and never left any good seating even half an hour before curtain.

I’d brought a box of cabernet, but that was gone by intermission. I tossed the box into the recycling bin and made my way down to the concession stands, picking up the blanket I’d brought to sit upon as the grass was damp from the previous day’s shower. I ordered two glasses of white zinfandel—the only wine left behind the counter, to my own disgust—from the concession stand, feeling it necessary to lie to the clerk and say one was for my friend back on the hill. The blanket over my shoulder should have been giveaway enough that I was making things up, but she neither questioned me nor seemed to care.

I went back to the hill to take my spot back. Only, when I arrived at the foot of the hill, a young woman and her suitor were laying their blanket down and taking their seats in my spot. The moment the blanket hit the grass, a chirpy little dog ran atop it and plopped down in front of a bag of popcorn.

“What the fuck?” I shouted–and I mean shouted.

The man turned around. “Excuse me?”

“I said ‘what the fuck’ … as in, ‘What the fuck are you doing in my spot?’” Clearly their response required that I reiterate the point.

“You moved. We thought you’d left,” the woman told me without making an effort to get up and move back to her original place.

“I went to get wine, you classless cunt.”

“Wow,” her boyfriend uttered. “I don’t know what’s sadder about you: the fact that you’re about to double-fist wine, because we all know you’ve been here alone this whole time, or that your alcoholism and loneliness have made you so bitter that you’re harassing strangers in a park.”

For the first time in my entire life, I was without a quick-witted remark to fire back at them.

I mean … they weren’t wrong. I was behaving like a crazy person. Sure, I was drunk, but I’d never been belligerent in my entire life until that very moment. And I was bitter … in more than one sense of the word. Bitter that Stephen blew me off to go adopt a baby. Bitter that I didn’t have a boyfriend to enjoy doing things with me and that all my other friends were either married or so infatuated with their lovers that they hadn’t the time to spend with their friends. Bitter that I’d forgone love and a relationship for my career and that all the men I’d ever loved or at the very least trusted found me unlovable.

Jesus fucking Christ … who had I become?

“There’s room over here,” a familiar voice called to me from a few feet away. Turning my head, I spotted Ezra sitting alone on his own blanket with his own dog curled up nervously in his lap. He nodded down toward the empty space on the blanket.

“Ha!” I said up to the sky. “You have a really fucked up sense of humor. You know that?”

“Who are you talking to?” the woman asked.

“God, dumbass,” I told her as I downed one of the plastic cups of wine before chunking it at her. “I hope your dog dies.”

I moseyed over toward Ezra, left without any options. I took a seat down without looking at him, though I could somehow see in my mind, nonetheless. He looked relatively the same. His features were a bit more defined, as happens in the early thirties. He still smelled like that Rue 21 cologne he’d worn when I knew him. And he still didn’t have that much to say unless prompted.

“Still classy, I see,” he muttered, which—whether from drunkenness or actual humor—made me laugh loudly.

“Well, you know me.” A moment of silence passed. “You look good.”

“You’ve not even looked at me,” he pointed out. “But thank you, anyway. You do, as well,” he said. “You actually look younger somehow.”

“Yeah, well I had to stop smoking cigarettes and snorting coke,” I confessed. That being said, there was nothing about this awkward encounter that didn’t make me want to do a bump and smoke a cigarette. “How’s the depression?” I asked him.

“Managed,” he replied. “And your bipolar disorder?”

“I think that my little sketch comedy down there is sufficient enough an answer to that.”

Finally, I did turn and look at him. And he did look good. “I figured you would have moved away by now,” I admitted.

“I thought about it,” he said. “I still think about it. I just haven’t.”

“Staying behind for a boy?” I asked, partly to poke fun and partly because I was nosy.

“Oh, please. I haven’t dated anybody in years.”

As everyone took their seats down in the pavilion, the crowd on the hill got quiet and the lights went down. Moments later, the curtain rose and the cast of jump-roping actors and actresses began singing the act two opener.

“This is a really good production for what it is,” Ezra said.

“It really is. I saw it here years ago, and I was impressed then, too.”

Shhh!” the woman from my original seat hissed.

I turned to look at her. “I will literally kill your boyfriend in front of you, and then make you watch as your dog eats his carcass.”

She fell silent.

“Some things really never do change,” Ezra mumbled, taking the cup of white zin out of my hand and taking a swig before handing it back to me.

I smiled.

“Guess not.” 


The days that followed those mushroom dreams were … confusing, to say the least. Discerning reality from them was difficult, but proved to be manageable. Each ending fit the course life could have taken, but each was tragic in their own right. I feared them … really feared them. Pushing too hard, loving being loved more than loving the person who loved me, and being alone. After all, as someone told me lately, I experience emotions intensely … maybe in a way most other people don’t. But another sex writer, I believe her name was Carrie Bradshaw, once said, “Some people are settling down. Some people are settling. And some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.”

I fell into the latter category.

A year to the day has passed since I sat down and wrote the first story in this series of tales about my sex life and my “love” life. In that year, I have been peed on, I have been objectified for my size, I have survived an orgy, and I have had my heart ripped out, and stepped on, and broken. But also in that time, I have danced with my friends, and had some amazing sex, and—as I once put it—fucked a frog or two, even when none of them turned out to be the prince I was hoping they’d be.

Still, through all the drugs and alcohol and parties and bad dates and not-dates, I did find the thing that I sought out to find in the first place:

Butterflies.

But what I’ve learned about butterflies is that they’re just like anything else that lives—like all organic matter. They are born, and they transform, and they live. And, ultimately, they die. But soon, if we’re lucky, someone comes along that impregnates you with them again. Even when they start off as caterpillars and slowly transfigure themselves into that feeling that makes you want to burst from the inside out. Sometimes they have to be caterpillars and cocoons, because they can never become butterflies without going through those phases. And that’s what life is all about: …phases. The relationships, the good times, the bad, the drama, the joy … none of it is constant.

And, if we’re still lucky, we get to go through some phases—like the butterfly phase—much longer than we have to wait for the chrysalis to crack.

However, therein lies the true beauty, at least I think:

Nothing lives without nurture, and if someone you love nurtures those feelings, nurtures those butterflies properly, they can live a very, very long time.

I’m lucky enough to say that I have someone who nurtures that feeling without even knowing it. Lots of people, actually. My Stephens, my Alices, my Laurens, my Courtneys, my Hopes, my Dereks, and even my Ezras. Without me, true, their worlds would go on turning. Still, each of them has had such a pivotal part in making me who I am, today, that I’m not so sure mine would without each of them.

They are true love, because there is no friendship if there is no love.

As for Ezra … well, nothing new is happening there. Nor with any man, for that matter. But he has taught me something quite unique about love from nearly the beginning of these stories; and that’s that love is just that … unique.

I’ll stand beside him and up for him and with him as long as he needs, and I will be his friend as long as we are both able—which hopefully will be a very long time. But I’ll never forget how he was the first man in a very long time to remind me what the butterflies felt like. And that’s the best gift anyone could have ever given me. And, as I said before, if the worst thing that happens is that he continues giving me those and I get to keep feeling them as his friend, that’s not such a bad place to be with someone.

I may not have ridden off into the sunset on the back of his noble steed, nor did we skip through fields of poppies into the sun. But the friendship I get to have with him since those letters is so much more fulfilling. It exists without illusion, without grandeur. And that’s something that I’ve needed more than anything for a very long time—long before these stories: something real. Anything real.

I don’t know what stories I’ll tell next, nor do I know which men will inspire them. I don’t know how soon they’ll come or what I’ll feel when I write them. But one thing is for certain:

I still have so much love to give.

Sexual Harassment Has No Place in My Career

About Feminism Feminism Feminist Equality Women

About Feminism, No. 3

It has become evident to me that the world I’m entering is not the one I expected it to be. Or maybe it’s just that one asshole has ruined everything and now I’m entering the entertainment industry with a hand over my eyes, expecting the worst.

From a young age, I have wanted to be a writer. A novelist, a comic book writer, and now a television writer. I have bounced around between the ideas of them all, just trying to find a place where I settle perfectly. And recently, I have found that place. Or, at least, the place where my talents, skills, and self fit best right now. The trouble is that in that place I wish most to be and am working my ass off to get to, there are a few scumbags. Before even truly entering the world of entertainment writing, while still acquiring new knowledge and preparing to escape into that world, there has been one particular scumbag that has tainted this new adventure for me. He has started my path out on something bitter and terrible rather than what it should be:  new, hopeful, and exciting.

It is because of this one person that I have been doubting myself. I have been told things like, “Oh, that’s just the entertainment industry,” and “If you want to go into television, you have to thicken your skin.” And to the people saying these things I would just like to say that all of that is complete and utter bullshit.

Sure, the entertainment industry has been known for its terrible past— one that has historically reduced women, queer people, and people of color to nothing more than stereotypes, extras, and people to take advantage of sexually. More so now than ever before in the past, we’re seeing the entertainment industry begin to do at least something about this issue. But it isn’t just applicable to the entertainment industry, nor should this issue be treated as though that’s all it’s applicable to, because there are bad people everywhere. There is sexual harassment in every field, in every state, in every nation all across the entire world; and for someone to sit down and tell me that just because I want to go into this particular field that I want to work in to create entertaining content for the masses and to discuss issues that often get swept under the rug, I have to what? Get used to it? I have to smile and nod when a man suggests inappropriate things?

Fuck. That.

I would also like to say that I am not someone that can be easily silenced. I will not go into this industry with a small voice that could easily be shut down by the people above me, nor will I acquiesce to the perversions of men who refuse to control themselves around women. I will not be stepped on or closed off by anyone because I make the choice to say ‘no’ to something that has nothing to do with my career and that makes me feel unsafe. And maybe I’m just saying this because I need to hear it be said. I need to hear myself think of myself as someone who is strong, if that makes any sense. Because, when you go through something like this, all the people around you, all the people who care about you, they all come in and tell you that you’re amazing. They tell you that you’re strong. They tell you that everything you’re doing is great and wonderful. And I appreciate that. I really do. But it’s time that I have to learn for myself.

In fact, it’s time that we all, as a society, learn that for ourselves. We need to start thinking of ourselves as tough, as women who won’t take any shit, as human beings who deserve to be treated like human beings and not sex objects. Because, honestly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of letting men in powerful positions walk all over me. And while this has been the worst instance of a situation like this, it hasn’t been the first. And while it’s awful to say, I’m sure it won’t be the last. Because, friends, this is the universe we live in; and, I say that as a fact, but I do not say that as an excuse. Just because this world is terrible and corrupt and full of deplorable men who abuse their power does not mean that it’s okay.

To brief you just a bit on the situation, I was offered an opportunity. A good one. A really, really fucking good one. It was offered to me by someone who is well-known in the entertainment industry, someone who has clout and connections; and it was an opportunity that realistically could have done a great deal for me as a television writer. But here’s where the problems began:  this man hadn’t ever read my writing. He didn’t know if I was even good at writing, or if I was just another kid with a pipe dream I wasn’t working toward. But you know what he did think? He thought I was hot — and he told me that part, that he was attracted to me — so why not give me a chance?

I’ve had teachers tell me, Use what you’ve got to your advantage”; but that was more specifically devoted toward filling a diversity quota. Production companies, especially writers rooms, are looking for diverse people. At a 2016 talk-back and book signing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, The Mindy Project creator and star (as well as former The Office producer), Mindy Kaling, offered advice to a young woman who asked what she could do to break into television writing, and Kaling told her just that. She let her know very clearly that writers rooms were looking for young people who were different — especially women, as statistically writers rooms have a large gap in the margin of male-to-female writers. But, with that being said, I will not sacrifice any part of myself, nor should you sacrifice any part of yourself just to fit into a box previously checked by someone else.

We are stronger than this. We know better than this. And if we keep sitting down, if we keep crying behind closed doors and letting things happen, then we are never going to make any progress in this industry. Because sure, the entertainment industry — while slowly but surely making small improvements — sucks. It’s all about power. The power our superiors hold over us, the power that we want to have, the power to make decisions to bring content that will exist forever thanks to the Internet and that will live in the hearts of millions for years to come. Look at the television shows that aired years — some decades ago that are still in syndication: Friends, Cheers, Bewitched. Look at the ones that aired all that time ago that are being remade or rebooted: Charmed, Will & Grace, and even the Roseanne reboot-turned-spin-off The Conners. And this world is on the cusp of major change, but the change we want to see in ourselves is reflected our own actions. We can’t move forward as a society if we’re not personally making our own changes in ourselves

This has been something that has been going on for a long time, and that will likely continue for a long time, as well, while Hollywood slowly weeds out and turns away the bad people. The entertainment industry has always been a problem since even the time that it began. In the recent years — months even — people have been standing up and saying what has happened to them, which has inspired others to do the same which is exactly why men like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein and Jeremy Piven are beginning to be held accountable. People who have been abused have stood up, spoken their truth, and paved the way for those ahead of them to not have to suffer the same trials and tribulations, even if that isn’t quite the case just yet.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t let people walk all over you. Be the strong human being you’re capable of being; and when shit gets hard, don’t let people tell you to remain calm. Get angry. Speak up. Don’t accept this as normal, no matter how many people tell you it is.