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Tricks and Treats, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

It’s no secret that Halloween is gay Christmas. It’s not as though we’ve ever needed an excuse to dress up in costume or drag and attend some hedonistic party in Montrose where someone will certainly be distributing ecstasy in the bathroom while remixes of every song by every pop icon are blared in the dark, trembling background. But Halloween poses a different sort of spectacle than every other party in Montrose. Inhibitions are lost; time seems to slow; and there’s an affection for our friends that provides a kind of high not brought on by bathroom ecstasy or specialty shots.

Plus, we get a little bit sluttier. At least I do. I being the person who puts the ‘trick’ in ‘trick or treat.’

There’s no logic or rule that dictates why Halloween puts us in such good spirits. Maybe it’s something psychological. Maybe it’s all hype. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something truly magical about Halloween.

Even in my exhaustion after two long weeks with work-related affairs, I couldn’t move myself to peel away from the idea of attending my friend Stephen’s boyfriend’s Halloween party. It was an annual event—or it was at least becoming one—that had the year before proven to be like any other gay Halloween party: a genus of twinks in brightly colored underwear donning body glitter and angel wings. This, mind you, was at an American Horror Story-themed party. Stephen’s apartment was small and the air conditioning was hardly working. An hour in, everyone was sweating and trying to escape into the 90-degree outdoors just to catch a breath.

This year, however, Leo (Stephen’s boyfriend) had relocated the party to a friend and co-host’s townhome off Washington. The theme? Netflix’s GLOW—appropriately retitled as the Gays and Lesbians of Wrestling.

As per the usual, I was dateless. I’d invited Ezra to accompany me, but he was to visit friends in San Antonio for the weekend. Luckily, my friend Carter tagged along with me. Carter and I hadn’t been friends for long. Like most of my friends at the time, we’d met through Pride. Carter was 30, single, and sweet, and not at all my type. Still, he was a good friend and an intent listener and the kind of person who would do anything for anyone.

We drank a bottle of wine at Barnaby’s before heading toward Washington for the party. Upon arrival, it was clear that Stephen had already been drinking well before our arrival. My friend Courtney and her girlfriend, Jennifer were also there, dressed from neck-to-ankles in incandescent Lycra. Just as the year before, a large portion of the attendees had taken it upon themselves to ignore the theme of the party—myself included, as I was not sure I had the body type to be wearing fabrics with such elasticity.

That’s not true. I was sure. I was certain that I did not. I did, however, dress nice enough and put on some black lipstick just for the hell of it.

Stephen grabbed me by the wrist just after I’d made a drink and dragged me to a wet bar in the living room of the townhome. “Let’s do a shot!” he suggested with all the charisma of a Beyonce drag impersonator. But like with all things when it came to Stephen—shots, bottles of wine, valid points in a heated debate—one shot turned into several shots.

My background with Stephen was relatively short, but fast-paced in some rights. He was one of the very first people I’d met at Pride Houston when I was a first-year volunteer. To be completely honest, when we first met, I thought Stephen was cute. True, he was gross and sweaty from working all evening in the sun and was about 15-pounds underweight. But in his glasses and seemingly-nerdy disposition, I was initially attracted to him. For a while, my friend Alice and I couldn’t figure out his last name and took to referring to him as just Hot Stephen.

But much like books, a boy should never be judged by his cover. As I transitioned into my role as the volunteer chair for Pride, Stephen and I encountered each other more frequently. Real Stephen was vastly different from first-impression Stephen. He wasn’t as tightly wound and I don’t think I ever saw those glasses again. True, Stephen was a pretty boy, but he was also a boy who was spoken for and whose personality—regardless of whether or not he’d ever admit it—was too much like mine. Opinionated, mildly neurotic, a little slutty, and often drunk.

As my first year as a chair dragged on, Stephen and I saw a lot more of each other. Pride events and workdays eventually turned into drinks at the Eagle or numerous bottles of wine at Barnaby’s or birthday and dinner parties. The conversations that had once just revolved around our work with Pride grew inclusive of similar interests. Soon we’d become friends.

After a few more shots, I found myself standing outside on the balcony smoking a cigarette with some strangers from Mexico. One of the two was in medical school and in Houston for her internship. The other was presumably her boyfriend. A moment later, Stephen found his way outside to the patio.

“I knew you’d be out here smoking. I’m gonna lock you out,” Stephen said before engaging with the medical student and her boyfriend. When their own cigarettes were finished, they made a quick exit and Stephen and I had changed the topic to the busy week we’d had with Pride work, the party, and our friends inside. It wasn’t until the tail-end of the conversation that Stephen asked, “So, how’s Ezra?”

“I think he’s fine. He’s in San Antonio right now, if I’m not mistaken.”

He took a sip from his straw while gulping down some vodka as he goes, “Mhm. Mhm.” Once he’d swallowed and removed the straw from his mouth, he asked, “And what’s the deal with that?”

I paused just long enough to roll my eyes. “Nothing . . . ? We’re just friends.”

More, “Mhm. Mhm,” until he was slurping what remained of his vodka out of bottom of his Solo cup. “I’m gonna go get another drink. Have fun, though!” he told me as he slipped back inside. However, before he’d closed the door, Stephen poked his head back through the threshold and said, “You know, I’m really glad we became friends.”

I couldn’t help but smile a bit. Formerly Hot Stephen I knew nothing about had graduated into Close Friend Stephen, which turned out to be a good fit for him.

“God. You’re so gay,” I told him as I rolled my eyes, relatively unable to ever reciprocate kindness. He stepped back onto the balcony for a second and pointed to his cheek. I laughed, then gave him a kiss there, leaving a large, black lipstick stain under his cheekbone.

“You’re my favorite person in Pride,” he told me as he slid through the door and closed it behind him.

That was gay Halloween magic at its finest—bringing two very unlikely people together to be friends . . . even if both were extremely drunk.

Oddly enough, however, Stephen’s momentary mention of Ezra made me wonder what he was up to. I nearly pulled my phone from my pocket to text him, but realized it was late and that I shouldn’t bug him while he was out of town with his friends. I could gather, however, that Ezra probably wasn’t at some rager in San Antonio like I was in Houston. A part of me missed him. 

Regardless, I resolved to wander back inside and drink through it like a grown-up.

Although, as I turned to open the door back into the townhome, I made an attempt to turn the knob, rattling and shaking it until it became increasingly clear that Stephen had, in fact, locked me out on the balcony.

“Bastard.”

Read Part II here.

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.

Shot Me in the Heart

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 3

Here it is as best as I can explain it:

Love is something that happens when someone becomes so overwhelmed by the good in someone else that they can’t get enough of it. They crave it in their life at almost all times. At first, it creates a sensation of being high. It’s euphoric. It’s magical. After that, it’s something different. Like smoking several cigarettes in the car. Or biting your nails when you’re deep in thought. It’s habitual. Love, like all things, changes based on necessity and familiarity. That’s not to say that the emotion has changed. The care felt for another doesn’t go away. Sure, it takes a little more effort to make the heart swell or for the butterflies to take flight. But it is – all the same – now a habit.

That’s because being in such deep infatuation – like biting your nails or smoking cigarettes or drinking in the early afternoon – is an addiction. It’s a compulsion. A preoccupancy. And like all addictions, once the snag is hit – the part that causes great pain – it becomes difficult not to love or feel great fondness. That’s because it is habitual, just like taking a pain pill every six hours or drinking eight cups of coffee every day. At a certain point, you forget what you did before you were initially so shot in the heart by Baby Cupid’s arrow.

I was not in love – although I did feel a great fondness – but I had hit my snag.

Like so many other things, it started over a $10 bottle of wine at Barnaby’s.

“So,” my friend, Hayden, began as he took a sip of his wine. “You met someone?”

My eyes darted up from the menu.

“He met someone,” Stephen answered for me.

“I have not met anyone. I mean … I did meet someone. But we aren’t dating,” I corrected.

“Do you like him?” Hayden asked.

Stephen nearly spit out his wine. “More than he likes these $10 bottles of wine.”

I choked on the cabernet and spit some of it back into my glass. “Fuck you!” I told him before looking back to Hayden. It was just after two o’clock and Stephen and I were fresh out of a Pride function. Hayden was there to drink with me after lunch, but that hadn’t prevented us from starting at lunch.

“What’s his name?”

“It doesn’t matter what his name is,” I replied, shooting my nose back down toward the menu I really had no intention of ordering from. In only its first moments, the conversation had already caused me to lose my appetite.

“His name is Ezra,” Stephen answered, again.

I slapped my menu down. “Could you please stop speaking for me?”

“Have you asked him out?” Hayden asked me.

“It doesn’t matter, because he’s just a friend and we aren’t going to date,” I tell the both. “Now, could we talk about something else?”

“Why don’t you want to date him?” Hayden inquired.

“He does,” Stephen chimed back in.

“Enough!”

“Why are you being so weird about this?” Hayden went on, pouring himself more wine and then ordering another bottle.

“I’m not being weird about anything. Ezra is just a friend. We hang out like friends. We talk like friends. We are literally not going to be anything more than friends, regardless of whether or not I want that, because he does not want it. And I’m being a grown-up and continuing to be his friend because he has very few other friends in the city and I like being his friend because we have very similar interests. Now, if neither of you would mind, I am going to the restroom.”

Anyone who has ever sat on the patio at the original Barnaby’s in Montrose may be able to tell you that one of the supporting beams that stands near the door alleged to be holding up the patio ceiling is actually of no use whatsoever. It’s screwed into the ceiling, but the bottom actually is raised about two inches off of the ground. It was a bit like my friends in that moment – appearing supportive, but providing no support at all.

As I stood up and downed the remainder of the wine in my glass, I whipped around to face the door and accidentally ran face-first into that very beam.

There it was. The corporeal manifestation of my snag.  


Hayden was the type of friend who truly wanted what was best for you, and was happy to do anything to help you get it. If it were sex you were desperately in need of, he’d happily take you to a bar, get you shit-face drunk, and poach out potential partners for the evening. If you needed to unwind and get everything off your chest, he would be there to listen, and then to take you out to a bar, get you shit-face drunk, and finally poach out potential partners. In reality, Hayden was nothing like that levitating beam at Barnaby’s. He’d do anything for anyone he cared about.

I returned to the table and poured more wine. “I’m having a party next weekend,” I said after a few moments of silence. “Bring booze,” I instructed.

“Who’s all coming?” Hayden asked.

“I can’t,” Stephen said. “Leo and I are going to see my parents.”

“Will Ezra be there?”

“What is your obsession with this thing with Ezra and me? Which, by the way, is not even a thing. You’re just insatiably obsessed with it.”

“Oh, honey,” he went on it. “It’s gonna be a thing.”

“What-the-fuck-ever.”

“I’ll help you,” Hayden said.

“I don’t need help!” I nearly screamed. It was fortunate that no one else was on the patio, otherwise I may have turned a few heads. So, I took a deep breath and downed the entire glass of wine before very quietly leaning in to say, “I just got out of a relationship with a man this summer, and I’m not looking for another one right now. And I most certainly am not in a place to set up expectations from a man that does not want to be with me and go through the same pitiful spiral of rejection I’ve gone through a dozen other times with a dozen other men.”

“Ezra is not other men,” Hayden insisted.

“That well may be,” I snapped. “But if he doesn’t have feelings for me, then I am perfectly content with remaining friends. I may be a jaded, hopeless romantic who’s been screwed over more times than I can count by men, but that does not make me a fool.”

Stephen’s eyes shot to and fro between Hayden and me throughout the entire exchange. I knew Hayden meant well. I knew he wanted good things for me. This, however, was something I’d come to learn was not going to change. I had accepted that.

“Well,” Hayden went on, seeking the last word. “You know how it goes. You say you’re fine with it. You get in a little too deep. You don’t say what you’re feeling. You go crazy. You self-medicate with alcohol.”

I huffed out a shot of hot air from my nose, completely over the conversation.  But instead of getting upset or irritated, I settled back into my chair properly, grabbed the open bottle of cabernet, and poured myself another glass. Then, as I lit a cigarette, I fumed the smoke over our heads and told him, “I’ll have you know that I drink regardless of how I’m feeling.”


By 8 o’clock the night of the party, I was royally fucked up. It was the kind of drunk you could really only get if you were having a party in your own home where you didn’t have to drive or try to navigate your Lyft app. I wasn’t quite sloppy drunk, but I knew I wasn’t far from it. There were about fifteen of us gathered at the house, though at varying times, and each of us had had more than our fair share to drink amongst other recreational proclivities. Someone had brought weed, which had never really been my thing. But the fact that I had so many people around me all at once had heightened my anxiety, and I hoped it would take the edge off.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered the fact that I might, at some point, begin to cross-fade between being drunk and being high.

At a certain point, the entire group was pretty heavy in conversation of which I had little-to-no interest. All I remember is listening to Ezra make a point next to me as we all stood around the island in my kitchen and my phone suddenly dinging in my hand. I turned down to look at it, seeing a text from Hayden, who stood just across the room.

Oh, girl. You’ve got it bad.

I whipped my head back up to look at Hayden so quickly that I feared the affliction of whiplash. I moseyed around the island, put my arms around his waist, rested my chin on his shoulder, and whispered into his ear, “I will kill you.” He laughed it off, not even humoring me.

“You should have seen the way you were staring at him,” he told me with another chuckle. “And you can, because I took pictures,” he went on as he held his phone up to show me.

“I’m stoned out of my mind. If a Southern Baptist minister were talking to me I’d be looking at him like that,” I told him as he scrolled through the photos on his phone. “And stop being such a creep.”

I turned around and dashed up the stairs of my house to the second floor, opened the door to my bedroom, and locked myself inside. I needed a moment.

Having just moved, nothing in my room was assembled or put away, so I fell to the floor onto the mattress I’d be sleeping on that night. I watched as the ceiling fan slowly spun around over my head, mesmerized in all my highness. It wasn’t long before one of the ceiling fan blades transfigured into the image of Ezra, running around in circles. Another one shifted into the shape of my ex-boyfriend, Parker, whom I’d only been out of a relationship with for a few months. A third blade morphed into a man named Taylor I’d once been quite enamored by, and the fourth and fifth turned into myself and a bow-and-arrow with which I chased the three men around in circles, shooting little red arrows at them like Baby Cupid.

Parker and I had little in common other than the fact that we were both staunch liberals who had amazing sex. Taylor, on the other hand, I’d only met a few times and developed a weird crush on because of our short yet impressionable interaction. Ezra was a little bit different than both of them.

If I listened closely enough, I could almost hear them screaming for me to leave them alone.

I think what I’d found so devastatingly attractive about Ezra was how much unalike we were. I mean, certainly, he and I had more in common than almost any of the people in my life interest-wise. But that didn’t mean everything about us or our likes and dislikes was entirely congruent. For instance, Ezra could be found eating Panda Express at 7 o’clock in the morning at an airport lounge if he’d missed a flight. I, on the other hand, found Panda Express to remind my palate of hot dog water. Ezra was nerdier than I, though I found that to be endearing. I was much more emotionally driven than Ezra, who at times could come off as devoid of any emotion at all, despite the fact that I knew there to be some in him. We were bred of different genera, and no one who knew us well enough would say otherwise.

But it was that about him – coupled with the fact that he was constantly unimpressed by me – that I found most compelling. He didn’t applaud my every triumph nor did he boast of me to others. And although the attraction to those qualities could simply be traced to having a childhood exclusive of a father, it made sense to me.

Ezra was, to the say the least, a pastiche of incongruities. A mosaic of non-matching tiles. He had a way of surprising me with the words he said and the things he did. Like showing up unexpectedly when I performed onstage, or taking up for me when I was backed into a corner. It was the culmination of things that you don’t notice about a person when you first meet them, but that come with time and friendship. And true, it did sadden me that he didn’t have feelings for me. But I wasn’t going to be devastated by it, either.

Rejection is one thing. It’s hard, but manageable.

The humiliation of letting someone see how they can affect you – that’s a dragon much more difficult to slay.

The sound of the door opening distracted me, and I turned to see my friend Iris standing in the doorway looking down at me.

“You good?” she asked me, just as our other friend, Miranda, popped up behind her at the door.

“Never better,” I replied, looking back toward the ceiling fan to watch myself shooting at those boys. Only now we were all gone. The ceiling fan was just a ceiling fan, and I had been better than I was in that moment.

Back downstairs, the number of people was slowly decreasing. We drank a little more, smoked a little more, but soon the only people left were Hayden (who was mostly sober, but leaving soon to go to the bar), Ezra (who was just as cross-faded as I was), and myself. Hayden was washing the dishes, of which Ezra was extremely complimentary.

“He’s doing your dishes for you. You’re going to owe him big time,” he told me at one point.

I could only roll my eyes and say, “If only you had any idea how many of his messes I’ve had to clean up.”

“Can’t you just put some kind of spell on these dishes to make them clean themselves?” Hayden asked me as he stuck a wine glass into the dishwasher.

“I don’t cast spells on dishes. I only cast them on boys,” I mumbled, drinking more.

“As long as you aren’t casting them on me,” Ezra muttered.

In my life, I’ve probably only been left speechless a handful of times. I’ve got one of the quickest wits of anyone that I know, and my flair for histrionics only amplifies this when I need it most. But sitting there at the island, looking at Ezra with his sleepy eyes and his foot bobbing up and down, I couldn’t quite summon my ingenuity. And maybe that’s because Ezra had done it again. He’d found something to say that had taken me by such surprise that I wasn’t sure how to react. Sure, I knew he didn’t like me. What was shocking was that this normally kind creature had the sharpness of tongue to bring up the subject with such little sensitivity.

I looked away, finally muttering, “Don’t be such a narcissist,” before walking away.

Soon Hayden dismissed himself, but Ezra was still too far gone to be driving anywhere. Instead, he ate, and we found something to watch on TV while we rested on separate ends of the couch. I think I may have tried talking to him about nothing in particular, and a few times, I think he even mumbled something back. But when I looked over at him, he’d fallen asleep. So, I leaned over a little onto the cushion behind me, still a safe distance away, and did the same.

As my eyes fluttered open and then closed over-and-over for the next few minutes, I kept them glued to him. There he was, the maker of the snag just resting on the couch next to me without any idea of the complication in my mind. He was complicated, which – as much as I may have hated to say it – only intrigued me more. Still, I had been right when I told Hayden that nothing would ever be between Ezra and me but a good friendship. And even if I’d not doubted it for a second, he had made that vocally clear tonight.

So, I fell asleep, still high enough to dream of chasing a boy with a bow and arrow. Only, this time as I shot the arrow, it hit the boy directly in the back, then he tripped over a root in the ground and fell on his face. And when I finally caught up to him and stood there to try and help him up, it became quite clear that the boy I was chasing was neither Taylor, nor Parker, nor Ezra.

It was me.

It was me having been struck in the heart, having hit my snag, and finally crying about something I’d told myself I’d be okay with because I hadn’t been in love.

Just great fondness.