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Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 9

What the fuck have I done?

It was after nine. I was wide awake. My friend Gwen was Marco Polo-ing me and had just read my open letter to Ezra.

My very open letter.

My letter that was supposed to be a catharsis—and was!—but that I also publicly published for him to read.

My letter that basically said, “Hey, brah. Umm … so not to be weird or anything, but I have these like feelings for you. And I don’t want to make things awkward, but I felt like you should know. And it’s not like I wanna date you or anything, but I do like being honest. Soooo, anyway, we’re gonna still be amazing friends, but you need to know this and you make me a better person and I think you’re special. K thanks bye.”

Yeah … that letter.

“So he hasn’t said anything to you?” Gwen asked me via video message.

“It’s only been an hour, Gwen. He may not say anything at all. He doesn’t have to. It’s not like he comments on all my other columns. Besides, it’s not a grand gesture.”

“Oh, it’s a grand gesture.”

“No, it’s not. Grand gestures are what you do when you want to be with someone. I do not need to be with Ezra.”

“That’s not what you said,” Gwen told me.

“What are you talking about? Yes, it is.”

“No,” she went on. “You said first that grand gestures are what you do when you want to be with someone. Then, you proceeded to say you don’t need to be with Ezra. Those are two different things.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes. “It’s applicable to both.”

“So, you don’t want to be with him?”

“I’m very happy being single,” I told her. “I do like him, obviously. But we have  a great relationship as it is, and I really adore that friendship. And he’s not relationship-y anyway. Plus there’s the whole asexual thing.”

“Asexual thing?” she asked me.

“Yeah. He’s asexual. And I’m kind of a nymphomaniac.” I looked out the window. It was dark out, though my room was lit up like a soundstage. I stood and closed the blinds.

“How did that conversation come up?” Gwen asked me.


It was the first time we’d ever done anything together. Our first not-date. We were driving back from the bar … what was it called? That terrible hipster bar with the expensive food and nearly liquor-free drinks?

La Grange. Yeah, that’s it. It feels like much longer ago than it was.

We were driving back to take Ezra and Lauren to their cars, neither drunk. It had been such a weird night, when I think about it now. The conversation was so effortless when it was just Ezra and I at that mildly dangerous Mexican restaurant. Granted, we were drinking. But the moment we were out and around our other friends, it felt different. At least, it did to me. It was almost like everyone else—Lauren, Courtney, and Jennifer—was watching us under a microscope waiting for something to happen, wondering what we were going to say, how we would engage with each other. Like bringing home a puppy to the dog you’ve had for years for the first time and seeing how they’ll interact.

But then, when the crowds were gone, when it was just us talking in the car—sans Lauren, who was in the backseat in her own little world—the conversation was easy again.

“I’m so tired of having sex,” I joked as we drove down West Alabama. “It’s exhausting and it takes so long. Plus, the men are rarely even good at it.”

Yeahh …” Ezra agreed. “I’m pretty sure that I’m asexual.”

I nearly wrecked the car.

When WHAT?! didn’t seem like an appropriate response, I instead said, “That’s sort of how I’ve been feeling lately.” But I knew for him, even then, that this wasn’t just a passing thought the way it had been for me. He was serious. It was a thought that he’d been sitting on for a minute.

“Yeah. I just don’t like sex. And when I have the urge, I have a hand for that,” he said with a laugh, though it wasn’t meant to be funny.

I tried not to bring it back up again until he did.


Sooo … I have tickets to this Idina Menzel concert in a few weeks, and I was wondering if you wanted to go with me. But I was thinking maybe we could go like … on a date?”

It was the very first time I’d ever asked anyone on a date in my life. The second would follow shortly after, though.

All day at work I waited for Ezra to reply. Courtney had been talking me up in an effort to get me to ask him on a date proper.

“C’mon! You guys looked so cute together the other night. Plus, you’re awesome. How could he not like you?”

Because Courtney’s a jaded liar, that’s how.

I was terrified. Why I was terrified is lost on me even today. After all, Ezra is literally the most harmless person I think I’ve ever met. Then again, aren’t those the ones who always turn out to be serial murderers? Not that I think Ezra is a serial murder. He’s too noncommittal.

Alas, the day turned to night and my anxiety got the better of me. The darkness fell, and with it my hopes as I quickly turned to a bottle 2002 Chardonnay someone had given me as a gift that I was saving for a special occasion.

… rejection kind of felt like a special occasion. Or maybe the special occasion was asking someone out on a date for the first time. I’m usually the one who gets asked out. Or I just sleep with men until they start buying me things, and then I assume we’re a couple or they’ve assumed I’m a prostitute.

When the wine was gone, however, I was worse off. Now, it was after midnight and I knew if the response hadn’t come by then, it wasn’t coming. So, doing what I was best at, I drunkenly called an Uber to come and take me to the bar.

It was a drag show night, and the bar was busier than I’d have liked. I wanted to just talk to my friend, Hope, not play games with Blackberri and Estella Blow—both of whom I do love—for prizes. I just wanted to take shots with my friend and bartender, while simultaneously crying about something that may not have even warranted any tears. But at least by Estella and Blackberri being there, I was able to enjoy myself, get drunk, and even win a prize (two concert tickets I think I ended up giving away).

When I finally Ubered home—blacked out and ready to sleep—I sat down to pee, as I knew there was no way I could aim for the toilet being that drunk.

“Well, if Ezra won’t go out with me, I’m sure someone will …”

I opened my phone and grazed through my contacts, stopping at Matt Kersey’s name.

Matt Kersey (God, I love that name) was a very cute boy I’d met all of twice at the bar on karaoke nights who once made me feel really good about my body when my ex-boyfriend was being a dick. I’d always found him attractive and assumed one day we’d probably end up sleeping together, anyway. There felt like no time but the present.

I don’t even remember how I asked him. I remember waking up the next morning hungover and ashamed to have done it in a message and while I was that drunk. I immediately deleted the entire thread and didn’t speak to Matt Kersey again for months. And thank God we did speak again. I kind of want that to be my married name, just because it’s such a great name. Anthony Ramirez-Kersey? Anthony Kersey?

It doesn’t sound so hot with my Anthony. Meh.

At work, though, I was surprised to find that Ezra had texted me back.

And while he was sweet about it, not to mention apologetic for taking so long to reply, he said no. If I still had the message, I’d quote it here. But again, I was ashamed that I’d been presumptuous with him, so I deleted the thread. Not that anyone could blame me. We did come to know each other because we matched on Tinder, after all. Still, I was embarrassed for a while following that, unsure of how we could manage a friendship if I was feeling anything for him.

But we did. And we did see Idina together … just … platonically.

I should probably stop buying him things (mind you, he did just buy our Hamilton tickets) …


Alcohol might be a good place to start tightening the purse strings.

Austin, TX – Austin Pride Parade – October

I believe the bar was called Rain. It was on 4th Street, but the details aren’t important. Out that night were Alice, Lauren, Ezra, and myself. We were staying at the Westin on the other side of downtown, and we’d all been drinking. A lot, actually. I know we’d been drinking a lot because according to my credit card statement, I spent roughly $200 on drinks that night.

I’m an alcoholic through-and-through, but even I can’t drink that much alone in a few hours.

The details are unimportant, but the rest of the night happened in a flash.

Lauren and I got into an argument—a screaming match, really. I went outside to smoke a cigarette while they were in the bar. I went back into the bar to find them, and they were all gone. Just like that. I’d been outside the bar for all of seven minutes and they’d abandoned me in a city I was unfamiliar with and a hotel all the way across town on a cold, October night.

Fuck ‘em, I thought as I took off, pad-and-foot, down 4th Street toward Congress. As I walked, my fury grew so quick, I swore that when it began to pour down rain on top of me that I had made it happen. These were supposed to be my friends, not just people I did volunteer work with. It shouldn’t have mattered that Lauren and I had a work-related argument. It was a classic mean girls move, and not one of them had even bothered to text me and ask where I was. When I finally did get a text, I was crossing Congress in the pouring rain and Alice had only said, “We’re going to Courtney and Jennifer’s room.”

Thoughtless fucks, was the last thing I thought before my foot fell into a pothole in the intersection and I went crashing down to the ground and slammed my face against the curb.

Maybe it was just my drunkenness, but I’m pretty sure I laid there for a moment before I got up to move. People passed by me—more than a few—but not one offered me help. When I did stand, my nose was bleeding and my glasses were a bit bent at the hinges. But I stood up, drunk, and tall, and too proud for this bullshit, waltzed my ass in the pharmacy where I could see the clerk staring at me out the window, and bought a pack of Marlboros.

The rain stopped before I reached the hotel. I went to our room and cleaned my face, then went down and joined them at Courtney and Jennifer’s room as if nothing had happened.

There, I walked in on the brunt end of Ezra telling Jennifer he thought he might be asexual. I tried not to intrude on their conversation. Besides, I’d heard this information before. Lauren sat on the floor, puffy-eyed and quiet, when Courtney told me she wanted to talk to me. Lauren left a moment later, but since Alice and Jennifer were still drinking and talking with Ezra, I told her we should talk about it in the hall.

I’m not sure why Ezra accompanied us there, or into the stairwell where the next fight ensued. Maybe I’d asked him to come, too. All I remember is spilling my wine on the floor, in which I sat down, and Ezra sitting next to me. What followed was Courtney, standing four feet above me scolding me for making Lauren cry. Her words were sort of lost on me at that point. Everyone’s were. And for a while after she left, I cried, and Ezra let me, not asking questions, not making me get up and go back to the room. We just sat there, barely saying anything, and I cried, not just because my friends had abandoned me and most of them had turned against me, but also because I was literally at my worst—the screaming, drunk, broken-faced, crying lunatic version of myself that only surfaces once in a while.

Ezra and I barely knew one another, but he let me be at my worst and never judged me—at least not to my face.


When I awoke on the pull out where Ezra and I were sleeping in the hotel suite the morning after next, the covers were mostly pulled off of me. Lauren had kept the room at a crisp 65 degrees. Ezra was facing me, but asleep still. So, I did my best to pull them back on me without waking him.

His eyes flew open and met mine, and for a moment I stared into them, taking note of what exactly they looked like. But in a motion as quick as a bolt of lightning, Ezra closed his eyes and rolled over onto his other side to face the wall before going back to sleep.

I still laugh when I think about that.


After Hurricane Harvey, a bunch of us from Pride were trying to get out in the city and volunteer where we could. The trouble was that so many people had come to the aid of others, that when Ezra and I met at the Pride office to go out and volunteer, everywhere we called turned us away for having too many volunteers. No one would take us. We spent time calling shelters, animal hospitals, retirement homes, churches, dog pounds—nothing. It seemed they had so many volunteers that they didn’t know what to do with them all.

An acquaintance, Gabriel, had joined us there on breaks while he volunteered with another organization in the building. They apparently needed no extra hands either. Instead, I poured vodka-cranberries for the three of us and we drank as we watched Practical Magic and played card games.

“I had sex with a guy that peed on me once,” I told them during a game of Ring of Fire.

“What?!” Gabe asked.

“He did,” Ezra answered.

“How do you know that?” I asked him as I stared him up and down.

“I read your column,” he told me. A part of me felt embarrassed. Certainly it was no secret at this time that I was a bit of a slut, but I didn’t really know how I felt then about Ezra having such a detailed knowledge of my sexual endeavors, which were anything but sparse.

“Interesting,” I said as I put my card down on the table.

“I’m mostly just waiting for the story about me to come out,” he teased as he drew a card of his own.

“How do you know I’m writing one about you, you narcissist?” I asked him, my mouth so wide open it could have sent birds flying out of it.

“Are you two like … best friends?” Gabe asked a moment later. “Like … how long have y’all known each other? Cause you talk to each other like sisters.”

“We actually just met right before Pride,” I told Gabriel.

“Yeah, but I mean, you kind of are my best friend in Houston. I mean, you’re the only person I ever spend any time with,” Ezra told me as he sipped from his drink. “Actually, you’re the first friend I’ve made in the years since I’ve moved here.”

My eyes cut up to him. Was he being serious? He’d been in Houston for three, almost four, years. Had he not made any other friends in the city before me?

I cut my eyes away and shut my mouth.

“There’s one more coming out next week, and yours is after it,” I told him. “My editors are working on it, now.”


I wasn’t panicking or anything. In fact, the moment that I published the letter, it was like there was this knot in my stomach that instantaneously untangled. I hadn’t even realized that I was still having these feelings for him, until he started being all cute and stuff in front of me when he was at my house. Granted, we’d both been drinking. And, in typical Anthony ‘I-can’t-deal-with-this-shit’ form, I waited until I couldn’t see his headlights as he was leaving, went upstairs and got dressed, and went out an alcohol and drug-induced spree through the city until I literally could not stand up any longer and passed out in my friends’ guest room.

And why? Because I’m not good at dealing with things. Sure, I can write about my feelings all day long. But don’t ask me to talk about them or try to sort them out or—worse—deal with them. Instead I’ll drink through them and maybe take a pill or smoke something that takes the worry out of my mind.

So, that’s what I did. And when it was over, when I was sober again and the world suddenly materialized around me, so did those feelings. I mean, they were never really gone. It’s just that they’re easier to ignore when you’re drunk off your ass and your nostrils hurt and a cute boy are playing with your hair while you pretend you’re ignoring him. When really you’re wondering whether or not he lives inside the loop so that you don’t have to go far to get home after you join him at his place to engage in what will probably be some rather mediocre sex with him. You do bumps in the bathroom while your friends pee right in front of you and you take the shots that everyone is buying you and pretend that one more drink won’t hurt. You do whatever you have to do not to feel anything, even if the feeling your feeling isn’t sadness or hurt … just an affection you aren’t ready to feel.

And if doing another bump means that you aren’t going to sleep, that’s okay. Because what does being awake mean but not having to face the darkness? After all, you forget that you’re afraid of the dark until it’s there with you, lying beside you in the bed that you felt was so lonely before. Only, when the darkness is lying there, still and unbreathing, you don’t wish for the light. You don’t wish the darkness away. You wish for company—someone to suffer through it with. And when you know that going home and to bed means greeting darkness alone, you do everything in your power not to do that. You, instead, do a line of coke, or pop an Adderall, or dance with your friends. Sometimes you even accompany strangers home. And it’s not because you expect anything to come of some mediocre sex in their dirty Montrose-adjacent apartment. But sucking their dick and lying lifelessly underneath them as they insist on calling you filthy names before they ejaculate on your face and chest and expect you to smile about it sometimes seems somehow more appealing than being home alone with the darkness and feelings you aren’t ready to face.

And the next day, you wake after falling asleep when the sun was coming up, and you look into your own tired eyes sometime between washing your face and brushing your teeth. And for a long, lonely moment, you realize that those feelings are exhausting … at least the way in which you go about not dealing with them is exhausting. You realize that you look five years older than you are because all you do is work and try to fit in so that you don’t have to feel. But that’s the real irony. Isn’t it? As you stare into your own cold, soulless eyes, staring at the shell of a person you used to know, you realize how much it would mean to you if you could just feel again.

It was nearly midnight, at that point. And Gwen and I were still talking. Then, as I was just about to fall asleep—with the lights on—my laptop pinged.

There, in the top right corner, was an email from Ezra. The subject line just said, “Ezra’s Response.”

Boy, was I about to feel again.

Tricks and Treats, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

At a certain point, I was undoubtedly drunk. Between Stephen’s specialty Nerds-flavored shots and the shots of Fireball in conjunction with all the vodka, I was just moments away from trying to play Someone Like You on the piano in the living room over whatever Bebe Rexha was shouting about. I refrained.

The party was fun and very much alive, but I was tiring quickly and wanted to see what was going on in Montrose before I retired for the evening. Courtney and Jennifer had already made their way to Pearl for the costume contest. Carter was flitting around the party, coming back every now and then to get a little handsy as the night progressed. The drunker I became, the less I fought it off. After all, I may not have been interested in Carter, but I was alone at a party and somewhat sadder than I had been before I was this drunk. The attention wasn’t killing me.

After goodbyes with Stephen and Leo and a few other people I’d met at the party, Carter and I dashed down the stairs to our cars to meet a couple of other friends at JR’s. Montrose, however, proved to be impossible to navigate thanks to street closures for Halloween and the perennial road work always taking place throughout the neighborhood. I must have parked six blocks from JR’s (and probably illegally, at that) before I was able to make my way to the bar.

The temperature had dropped significantly in a very short time, but it hadn’t prevented anyone from wandering the streets. Even the patio of JR’s was packed with people, as was every room of the bar. Finding Carter, as well as my friends Casey and Nick, proved to be much more difficult as I squeezed my way through the unnecessarily sweaty patrons.

When I did finally find them, I had trouble keeping my attention zeroed in on the conversation. This could partly be chalked up to drunkenness, but my distraction was due to everyone else in the bar. From Casey and Nick to every other pair, it became depressingly obvious that nearly everyone in the bar was coupled off.

Where had gay Christmas gone? Where had the twinks in wings and colorful underwear tottered off to? Even the bears in leather were partnered-up. Long gone seemed the days of going out on Halloween with the intention of hooking up or meeting someone interesting who may only seem attractive at the time due to their costume. Looking around, I obsessed over the fact that out of 5 million people in the city of Houston—granted only a minority of them gay—everyone out for Halloween was already spoken for. Where were all the single people? Was there some sort of single, gay, Halloween party I hadn’t been invited to where everyone drank wine and watched Practical Magic until they’d become so drunk and suicidal that they decided to join hands and jump off the roof like Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman at the end of the movie?

Why hadn’t I been invited?

The clock struck 2 AM sooner than I’d have guessed, and Carter and I made our way through busy Montrose hand-in-hand toward our cars.

Unfortunately, like on so many occasions before, I couldn’t find my car anywhere.

Fuck,” I swore, irritated with myself for not thinking to pay more attention when I’d parked.

“It’s fine,” Carter told me as he led me to his car. “I’ll drive you around until we find it.”

If ever there came a day when I didn’t have to rely on a man to help me find my car, I might actually wake up a different person. Sadly, that was becoming more and more a trademark of who I’d become.

Finding the car didn’t take long. Once we’d passed by JR’s, I began to remember how I’d walked to the bar from my car. Carter pulled up right behind it to let me out on the corner like a hooker who’d lost her way. He leaned in to hug me, lingering a bit before he kissed me on the cheek. Once he had, I kissed his back.

What happened next I could blame on the alcohol, but I’d be lying. Being drunk had never made me do anything. I knew better than that. Still, as I moved just a little bit to the right and kissed Carter on his lips, I couldn’t compose a justifiable reason why I’d done it. He kissed me back, and we did so a little more before my senses returned to me and I pulled away.

This was not the magic of Halloween. This was a drunk, lonely gay who’d been thinking of another gay all night while taking advantage of his friend. And though Carter didn’t object and reciprocated the kiss, I was taking advantage of his kindness, and for that I felt like shit.

I bid him goodnight, then sped off in my own car. I was embarrassed. Not because Carter wasn’t cute, he certainly was. But because I’d escalated to a new level of sluttiness—the kind that involves and can harm your friendships.

I guess I really had put the ‘trick’ in trick-or-treat, even if only by way of innocently kissing a friend in whom I had no romantic interest. Worst of all, though, I felt unfulfilled. This kiss hadn’t meant anything, though maybe part of me was hoping that it would have coming from a boy who at least paid attention to me and made me feel attractive. But the magic—Halloween or otherwise—simply hadn’t been there.

Even on a night when witches were supposed to fly their broomsticks across the night sky, and spirits were said to creep from one side of the veil to the other, and twinks paraded around in their underwear and angel wings, maybe the magic of gay Halloween wasn’t resting in how much we had to drink or how slutty we became thereafter. It laid in our friendships—the unexpected ones that started off as silly crushes, and the ones that we kissed by accident that we’d never crushed on before and probably never would. Those were the people who made Halloween—a night of needless celebration—fun. They were the ones we could count on no matter what.

Return to Part I here.

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.

Love Me Tinder, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 1

“Some people are settling down; some people are settling; and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.”

–Candace Bushnell

Generally speaking, dating can be fun. Dating in Houston, on the other hand, can often feel . . . obligatory. In a city of over five million people, one might think that the options available are vast and perennial. After all, all our friends are doing it. Right? If they aren’t, they’ve probably already settled down or have at least settled for someone because they were tired of mining through the endless herds of undatable people.

For gay men in Houston, it’s usually always the same sort. There’s lives-with-his-parents guy, has-too-many-roommates guy, just-wants-to-hook-up guy, wants-to-fall-in-love-immediately guy, and often even gay-republican guy—the worst of them all. And the dates? Well, they all seem repetitive, too. Dinner at Cyclone Anaya’s in Midtown; $10 bottles of wine at Barnaby’s (an option I don’t particularly hate); ice skating at Discovery Green in the wintertime; dancing and doing coke at South Beach (FYI: not a date, gentlemen).

Inevitably, there comes the postcoital wave of regretlooking over at a stranger who is just as ready for you to leave as you are to leave; sneaking out of some shitty Montrose hellhole apartment in the wee hours of the morning, just as the sprinklers of the neighborswhose luxurious townhome you’d hoped to be hooking up inpower on; forgetting you Ubered to your hook-up.

For we Millennials, a subtle escape from this trap has been air-dropped into our phones. Several, actually. Tinder, Scruff, J-Date, Farmer’s Only, GrindrI’m still waiting on the lesbian hookup app called Lickr. Still, there’s a certain conceit behind dating in queer culture—especially so following the introduction of these dating apps. They’ve stepped in and started minimizing the once boastful, giddy romance of meeting the right person. There are no meet-cutes anymore. There are no accidental run-ins at the bookshop or a coffee house. Romance has left the building, now replaced by right swipes and recognizable pings coming from cell phones when someone attractive is nearby.

I, personally, have never taken Tinder seriously. Still, every now and again a conversation might spark between me and no one in particular that would ultimately lead down a rabbit hole of realizations that we had nothing in common and that the person on the opposite side was only looking for sex. Neither suited my fancy; and I never even entertained the idea of meeting any of these men.

There was, however, one occasion in which I was able to hold a decent conversation with a man, and we kept it going sporadically for a couple months to follow. Our interests were quite similar: musicals, books, etc. Once or twice I even thought maybe I should ask this boy—we’ll call him Ezra Rochester—for a date. Still, I found myself at a loss of nerves and never made the leap to do so. I knew little about him, other than the fact that he loved musicals as much as I did and that he had an adorable dog I was probably more interested in meeting than I was him.

As the time passed, I found myself in a relationship with a boy I’d met at The Room Bar in North Houston. We dated briefly before I realized he was dumber than a hot bag of stones, but it was just long enough for me to have rid myself of my Tinder app. When the guy from the bar and I broke up, I didn’t think about Ezra. He was just a picture and a conversation in an app I’d deleted. It never occurred to me that in a city of over five million people, chance might bring us together.


Ezra turned out to be much cuter in person than he was in photos. Not to say that he wasn’t attractive in his pictures. After all, I’d swiped right for some reason. He was shorter than me, but not terribly so. He had forsaken his glasses in the name of Lasik. He was clean-shaven; and he didn’t have terrible teeth. It was enough for me.

We met like any other two people who had once upon a time matched on Tinder. I, the volunteer chair for Pride Houston, was hosting an orientation a few weeks out from the parade and festival. He was there to learn the ins-and-outs of being a volunteer. I didn’t recognize him at first. If I had to remember the face of every man I’ve ever seen on Tinder, I’d be in a great deal of trouble. It wasn’t until he was gone and I had already been doing a great deal of flirting (as pointed out by my friend Alice) that I took it upon myself to Facebook-stalk him.

“Omigod,” I muttered to Alice. “We matched on Tinder like in the fall of last year. Christ. I was just shamelessly flirting with him.”

“You really were,” Alice muttered.

“Was he flirting back?” I asked.

Alice looked thoughtful for a moment—a common look that crosses her face but often remains stuck to it once the thought has passed or imploded. “I don’t know. I think maybe a little. It’s hard to tell.”

I made up my mind then. I had for the first time met someone from Tinder—even if unintentionally. I wasn’t sure whether or not I believed in coincidence, but I knew that in a city as large, as spread-out, and as heavily populated as Houston, two people didn’t just happen upon each other in this way very often. It could have meant nothing. In fact, it probably didn’t mean a thing at all. Still, I wasn’t going to find out if I didn’t see it through.

The day of the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration 2017, Ezra spent nearly the entire day volunteering and was even the last of my volunteers to leave. To say things wouldn’t have gotten done without him—at least not as quickly as they did—would be an understatement. And at the end of it all, as he, Alice, and I watched the last U-Haul drive off carrying supplies, looking back up at Houston’s City Hall, Ezra turned his attention back us both, gave an awkward smile, and said, “Well . . . see you next year.”

“Next year?!” I shrieked as soon as he was out of earshot. “I don’t even know if I like him yet or not and I have to wait until next year to find out?”

“You could just go over there and ask him out,” Alice suggested.

Not an option.

I didn’t then nor do I feel it’s fair to ask someone out after a 12-hour volunteer shift in the splintering sun. No rational decisions could be made. Still, there was something compelling about him that I didn’t quite understand at the time. He was cute, and completely awkward and nerdy (my default type). It could have been the way that he had a playfully combative response to each and every witty thing that I said. It could have even been the dryness of his humor. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the fact that a boy put a smile on my face while I was altogether sober that I hadn’t met in a bar like so many before him.

Continue to Part II