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Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No.15

While it’s probably best that I don’t equate falling in love to some sort of illness, it is worth noting that there are symptoms that accompany falling in love with another person. The symptoms might be a bit different from person-to-person, but upon hearing the symptoms described by someone else, those of us who have in the past been afflicted can recognize them almost immediately. For some it’s the utter disinterest in perusing for other partners or the lack of intrigue in having sex with someone else. For others it’s that jealous, angry pit that opens up in the bottom of your stomach when you see the object of your affection romantically involved with someone else or when they talk about their sexual conquests or recent dates. Of course there’s the natural, nurturing feeling that comes along with seeing one’s beloved hurting or sick or maybe mad at the world and wanting to immediately hold and console them. Then there’s the simplest one—the one that we all want most: the feeling when they walk into a room or a text message from them appears on the home screen of your phone that’s followed by your stomach doing cartwheels, tickling and scrunching up as the inside walls are traced by the wings of the butterflies bouncing around inside.

That’s sort of how I knew I had fallen for Ezra. It took a while, but I was eventually cognizant of the fact that I was suffering from certain symptoms I’d experienced before but hadn’t recognized because it had been so long since I’d last felt them. All of those were there: the jealousy, the nurturing, the butterflies, but probably first and foremost came the lack of interest in dating or sleeping with other men.

Now, that’s not to say I’d lost all interest. Certainly when attractive men, whether that be defined by their looks or by bright mindedness, would pass me by or smile at me or give a friendly hello, I took note. But there was a certain compartmentalization that took place that prevented me from pursuing it any further. One of the many compartments was marked Anthony, Who is Always Boy Crazy, and it was there that any thoughts or urges were placed until later. Later, I say, because I was living out of a different compartment of tools at that time; one that was marked Anthony Who Is Falling in Love with Ezra.

In the process of trying to fall out of love with Ezra, or at least trying to get back to being okay with just being his friend, I’d begun digging my way through the former compartment to see what was inside. The symptoms Ezra brought about for me weren’t quite gone—not even close, if I’m being honest—but I also had the cognition to understand that if I didn’t dig through the compartment where I’d stored all my feelings separate of him, I’d never really get past them at all.

While doing so, I began letting myself pay closer attention to the world around me with my focus not so keenly set on the man I’d fallen for and who had broken my heart. What I began to see was that, in the process of trying to win one man’s heart, I’d not realized that there were plenty of others standing all around me at all times. I’d been mildly celibate and dateless since I’d confessed my feelings to Ezra. Even in hearing him say he couldn’t reciprocate them, I’d been convinced that by holding out, something might change; but the only thing that changed was the fact that opportunity-after-opportunity had gone by and I’d not even batted my eyes at any of them.

That’s how I’d missed a boy named Mason as if I were shooting a gun at a target for the first time in my life. Nearly as long as Ezra had been around, Mason had been around, as well. In fact, that wasn’t the only way our happening upon one another had been similar to that of Ezra and me. Although, I don’t want to go into the details just yet.

That, however, is where the similarities between Mason and Ezra stopped. We met similarly. That’s it. Ezra was asexual, Mason was … well … not. Not. At. All. Ezra was a man of numbers and solitude, and Mason was more of a words and people person. Ezra didn’t particularly enjoy drinking, as to where Mason loved being drunk, though didn’t do it that often and certainly was unable of keeping up with me while I was drinking. Ezra preferred to spend his time alone and at home, but Mason was a person who enjoyed company and explorations.

They couldn’t have been more different, actually, which was a relief to me. It was a reminder that even though I may have had a type—smart, dorky, nerdy, cute nevertheless—I was not doomed to repeat a cycle with the same type of man for the rest of my life.

Well … hopefully not. That much remains to be seen.

But as much a fondness as I was still feeling for Ezra, my eyes had finally realized that the entire time I’d known him, there was this other wonderful man standing right in front of me. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t thought about it. The thoughts had just been fleeting. I shrugged them off as distractions or things that would ultimately prevent me from obtaining the very thing I was destined to never have. So, when I saw Mason—not saw him for the first time, but really saw him—I remember thinking to myself, I wonder …


What we were celebrating escapes me, now, but I knew that we were celebrating something. Maybe it was a big advertising account I’d scored at the magazine or maybe someone had gotten a promotion or a divorce. Not just Mason and I, but a large group of us had made our way to JR’s in good spirits, ready for a night of reprieve from our droll, day-to-day humdrum. I had been drinking since much earlier in the day as I’d had that Friday off work and even arrived ahead of schedule. As the masses trickled in—Mason, Alice, Elaine, Taylor Kyle, and Max—I began ordering drinks for everyone, and a round of shots when they’d all arrived. We took our shots at the bar, then retreated to an empty patio cabana where everyone lamented about work, boys, their families, and, again, boys.

“Oh, this guy is cute,” Mason said as his phone resonated the Grindr ping! and he typed out a message.

“Let me see!” I laughed as I snatched his phone away. The guy on the screen was short, but had nice arms and a very serious-looking face. “He is cute,” I agreed as I zoomed into his arms. “And those biceps, though! Oy gevalt.”

Riiiiiight?” he said with a smile as he pulled his phone back toward him. “We can share him if he’s into it.”

I laughed and downed the remainder of my drink.

“You know, I remember being where you all are,” Elaine told us with a laugh and a flip of her ginger hair. “The cruising for guys, the shameless flirting, the endless amounts of random dick.”

“When she says it like that, it almost God is using her to communicate with us,” I teased.

Everyone laughed. “I’m serious,” she insisted. “But when I met Cameron,” Cameron was Elaine’s husband of nearly a decade, “all of that changed. And I’ve never wanted it since.”

“Oh, bullshit,” Taylor antagonized. “You’re telling me that in ten years of marriage and eleven years of being together, you’ve never looked at another man?”

“Oh, c’mon!” Elaine replied. “Of course I look. Hell, I look at all your friends, and they’re all gay.” Everyone giggled a bit at this. “But it doesn’t mean you want to be with them,” she said as she finished the remainder of her drink, as well. “Besides … Cam has a huge penis. It’s like … perfect.”

A-yo!” I shouted as I stood up and reached over to high-five her. “I get it, though. I mean, not the married part. Ew. Gross. Kill me,” I began. “But even when I was super hung-up on Ezra, I couldn’t really get into sex with other guys. So … I just … I don’t know … didn’t have much.”

There was a near-communal gasp around the cabana.

“What?” several of them asked.

You?” Alice asked. “You didn’t have sex for that long?”

“It’s only been a few months, Alice,” I told her with a smile. “I don’t need it. I don’t even really remember if I like it,” I chuckled before saying, “Oh, my.” I paused and looked around. “Is this what growing up feels like?”

“Partly,” Elaine jabbed.

I slid a piece of ice of my glass and into my mouth. After crunching it, I said, “I don’t like it.”

“I love sex,” Mason said. “And I even think I need it a little,” he added as he went back to the men on his Grindr app.

“I’m just saying,” I told them, “that when you really love someone, when it’s the real thing, it isn’t that you don’t really think about anyone else or that you don’t lust over anyone else. It’s just that you don’t really want them. You might think about it, even …” I gave a masturbation gesticulation to them, “… about it. But it’s like this side effect of falling in love that you just don’t want it badly enough for it to be with anyone but that person you’re in love with.”

“What about polyamorous people?” Taylor asked. “Or people in open relationships?”

He posed a good point.

“I don’t know,” I confessed. “I’m sure it’s similar, just with more than one partner. But I could be wrong. I’ve never tried either of those things.”

“Exactly,” Elaine agreed. “He’s so wise.”

“Well, I’m only 24-years-old, but I have a mind as old as Elaine’s frown lines,” I told them as I stood up to get us all more shots and me another drink. She swatted at me and laughed as I walked by.

At the bar, Mason joined me. “There’s nobody here I wanna make out with,” he said as he slumped onto the bar and gazed around at all the gays in Montrose who had come out to enjoy their Friday. They drank the way any of us would … with a disposable gay income.

“What about the cute Grindr guy? Where’s he at?” I asked.

Eh. I think he’s on the DL,” he told me with a grimace.

I ordered us each a shot and then new drinks, as well as one for Elaine. We raised our glasses to whatever it was that we were all celebrating, took our shots, then just stood their in awkward silence for a moment. I tried not to stare at him, but the closer I got to the finish line of romanticism with Ezra and the nearer I grew to just looking at him as my friend, my tunnel-vision for him expanded to see what else was around me. And right there in my line of sight was Mason.

He was terribly cute, I must say. Almost like … cartoon character cute, if that makes any sense whatsoever. He had big eyes and messy hair, but was well-dressed in clothes that hugged his average frame. He wasn’t bulging with muscles, nor was he really “skinny”. He was just kind of … him, I guess. I caught him looking at me, too, and for a moment I smiled, then laughed, then had to turn my head because I was blushing.

Yeah … blushing.

I swear to God I couldn’t remember the last time a boy had made me blush, especially just from passing along to me a sheepish smile. But that’s all it took to make me smile and giggle like a child and blush, all one-after-the-next.

Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe not.

In the cabana, we all drank more; we all talked more.

“You’re basically comparing love to cancer,” Elaine refuted my cynicism.

“No, I’m not!” I said after explaining to them all my theory about the symptoms of liking someone else. “It doesn’t kill you in the end.”

“It can,” Max chimed in. “I tell you what, when my ex left me, I felt like I was gonna die. It’s been almost four years, and I still get weepy thinking about it. Then finding out he was gay, and then having him tell everyone else in the free world but me—that almost killed me. We were high school sweethearts,” she explained. “If nothing else, was I not still important enough or a good enough friend to confide in? If anyone would’ve reacted well, it would’ve been me. Hell, I’m a fruit fly!”

“Maybe he didn’t tell you because he didn’t want you to blame yourself or feel like he loved you any less,” Taylor analyzed.

“I would agree with that,” Alice said.

“Maybe,” Max told everyone. “It doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like I was dying.”

“See?” I asked. “Love. Has. Symptoms. Some are good, like being elated when your partner walks in the room. Others are not, like—”

“Feeling like you’re dying when your ex comes out of the closet,” Max finished my sentence.

I gesticulated toward her. “Precisely.”

Mason sat next to me on the couch as he slammed back the remainder of his drink. When he finished it, his torso was dancing—or, at least, the white people version of dancing—to the rhythm of the song playing over the patio.

He rested his head on my shoulder.

“You know, I agree, though,” Mason said next to me before he jumped into his own story of romantic free-falling. But I could hear a thing he was saying. Because the moment he laid his head on my shoulder, the minute I felt that hair against my neck, my chest tensed up—tingled, even. And the rest of the time we sat there, through drinks-upon-drinks, through stories and laughs and swear words and cigarettes, it only progressed.

First, the head on the shoulder, which was followed by the arm around me—the only punctuation between the two an ever-intensifying flutter in my chest. Then, from his arm around my waist and his head on my shoulder, the skin of his wrist brushed against that of my own and I swear to god every hair I had—not just those on that arm, but all over my body—stood up, electrified. And last came the thing that just did it, that thing I’d not felt since before it had happened with Ezra but had missing for so long since.

As I was sort of playing with his fingers only for a second, he jumped at the chance to hold my hand, to intertwine his between mine.

My body … was … on … fire.

Everything inside of me tickled, and I suddenly found myself having to fight back the urge to take it a step further—to press my nose into his neck, to rub its tip softly back and forth against his skin in slow, gentle strokes and to kiss him there along its trail I’d have left.

It wasn’t exactly the hot kind of see-each-other-across-a-crowded-bar-and-dive-into-one-another story I’d had in the past. It wasn’t animalistic or ravenous.

No, it was better.

It was kind of … well … sweet.

Everyone else noticed it, too, even for being as drunk as they were. In fact, I’d say that in seeing what was happening, in their eyes meeting mine, lids spreading further and further apart, they were sobering up just a little bit.

And there we all stayed, drinking more, taking more shots, telling jokes, and exchanging stories until the very moment that the bar threw us out because it was fifteen minutes past two, and they had to close down without us realizing how much time had passed. And we walked hand-in-hand back to our cars, which were parked right next to one another. And we said goodbye to Elaine, and to Alice, and to Taylor, and to Max. Then we stood between our cars, his hands on my hips, mine tracing the small of his back.

We stared right into one another’s eyes for the longest time, saying something, but nothing at all, smiling like the drunk, horny idiots we both were.

And the moment he pressed his forehead against mine to tell me goodnight, the moment he pulled me in closer to him and I felt his penis through his pants right there in the middle of that empty Montrose parking lot, he whispered, “Let’s go out again next weekend.”

I got excited hearing this. I felt like I was in a fever dream or something … completely incapable of understanding how this had happened between two friends who’d known each other for as long as we had or how I’d gotten here with him, how these feelings had crept up on me and surprised me and made me feel so light. I felt like steps were missing. It was like reading a run-on sentence free of commas—confusing and messy.

But the messiness of the sentence structure was okay, or, at least, I was still able to decipher it.

Maybe that’s exactly what it is when it happens, though—what all these symptom-inducing infatuations are—fevers. Maybe that’s what happens when we fall for someone, or at least when we begin to. We live febrile and all those symptoms—the jealousy, the nurturing, even the butterflies—are the accompanying symptoms. And the thing that makes the fevers all worthwhile, no matter how bad it may have get or seem at the time, is the knowledge that at the end of it all, we got to escape in the accompanying, sexy, fever dream.

Suddenly I was moving from one to the next, without ever having truly been afebrile. One compartment was being closed, and another opened as I dipped my toes into a pool of cool water just enough to not let the fever spike and take control.

Mason pulled me in a little tighter, let me go, and entered his vehicle without ever saying goodbye, without ever laying his lips upon mine.

He didn’t even look back.

My god was that sexy.

It’s My Party & I’ll Cry If I Want To

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 13

“I’ve done the merry-go-round. I’ve been through the revolving door. I feel like I’ve met somebody I can stand still with for a minute and … Don’t you wanna stand still with me?”

—Carrie Bradshaw


One might be privy to believe that after chasing the same man around-and-around in circles for a year, being rejected by him not once, but twice, finding out he is not only asexual, but also aromantic (a then-new term to me), and bearing my soul to him on a very-public forum, I might be tired and heartbroken and over it. Well … I am tired. Exhausted, actually. And I am over it, please believe me when I say that. And, last but not least, my heart is broken. All that “time heals all wounds” bullshit is just that … bullshit.

So, yeah. Tired? Check. Over it? Check. Heartbroken? Quadruple check. Done? … apparently not.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds, you know. Saying I am moving on and actually moving on are two very, very different things. As much as I wanted to, I was trapped by the knowledge that for the first time in my adult life, I’d actually met one of the good guys. Like … one of the really good guys. One of the guys who doesn’t get upset with you over trivial matters; one of the guys who doesn’t make a big deal out of it when you have to cancel plans; one of the guys who knows about your (very sordid) sexual history and isn’t judgmental; one of the guys who isn’t rude to you and doesn’t put you down (even if he doesn’t always think about what’s coming out of his mouth before he says it); one of the guys who isn’t spending time with you because of some ulterior motive and genuinely just enjoys your company.

That’s right. I’d found him. That one in a million. And his name was Ezra Rochester (it’s a ridiculous name, I know. But try to stay with me here).

Only, as stupidly deep as I’d fallen for him, Ezra’s love for me extended only as far as … well … friendship.

Whomp, whomp, whomp.

I know. It sucked. Hell, it still sucks. But, to his credit, after an emotional and regretfully public admission of my own love for him, Ezra had come out of the closet for the second time in his life. This time not as a gay man. No, no. He’d done that before many years ago (Ezra’s actually four years older than me, and, by default, kind of a crotchety old man who is set in his ways). This time he’d come out as something I, at the time, didn’t understand people had to come out as:

Asexual.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the hits really do just keep on coming. So, as you can imagine, there’s more. An extension of Ezra’s unfortunate (in my case) asexuality was that he was something else, as well—something I’d really never heard of before he’d told me:

Aromantic.

Yeah. So, now you’re all caught up. Cliff’s Notes version: Anthony Ramirez is a sad, lonely nymphomaniac who uses sex and alcohol to mask his actual feelings for someone who is actually incapable of falling in love with him back.

What a fucking shit show.

But, honestly, for a short time I didn’t feel that way about it. I was happy for Ezra. He’d finally come to grips with something he’d been trying to figure out about himself his entire adult life—longer even, probably. And it couldn’t have been such an easy thing to do. As the LGBTQIA community continuously is in divided on whether or not asexual and aromantic are even identifiers that should be recognized in our acronym (they are, mind you; these people matter just as much as everyone else), being something that may not be accepted by a community you already belong to has to be a bit scary. Although, if Ezra was content and finally accepting of who he was on a larger scale than just being gay or straight or otherwise, then I had conceded to be content for him. In fact, I’d even come to a place where I was able to stop crying over the fact that there may be something totally unlovable about me and realize that it wasn’t about me at all. In that moment, I was finally able to accept that maybe, just maybe, it was just as fulfilling to be one of the most important people in his life—a friend that he cherished in the highest regard, considering that there wasn’t going to be anything else romantically that he’d ever really be able to have.

Sigh.

But like all moments, that moment was … well … fleeting. And while I’d love to chalk it all up to my own crazy and irrational emotions just getting the better of me, I can pretty much certainly say that for once my histrionic reaction was justified.

That’s right, folks. The man I’d been boasting as “one of the good guys” to everyone I’d ever mentioned him to, even if he wasn’t necessarily my good guy, kind of fucked up … in a big way.


The date was April the 21st, and it was the day before my 24th birthday. To celebrate, my friends Max, Karlee, Alice, and the man of the hour himself, Ezra Rochester, were kidnapping me for a not-so-surprise trip to Austin for a day where we could day-drink and worry about absolutely nothing.

I was thrilled by the idea. It had been quite a long time since I’d been on a day trip that wasn’t for work, and the idea of not having to pay for any of my meals, drinks, or activities was nothing short of appealing to me. Better yet, getting a little alone time with my friends, especially Max and Karlee whom I didn’t often see, was going to be fun. There was, however, the awkward incident of Ezra and I wearing nearly identical outfits that day, which I guess was mostly my fault. I had, after all, accompanied him on a shopping spree the weekend before and helped him pick out a new wardrobe that included jeans that fit and shirts without words or superhero logos across the chest. In fact, we’d gotten him a lot of nice new clothes, and to be frank, when he wore them, he was hot. (Keep this shopping spree thing in mind. It will come back up later). 

Regardless, as soon as we got in the car and stopped at the gas station, I pulled a tiny plastic bag from inside my Louis Vuitton wallet and my car keys out of my pocket so that I could do a bump of coke. I’d been up late working the night before and then couldn’t sleep much after that from all the excitement. If I was going to be awake and alert enough to really enjoy the day, I was going to need the uppers. Max and Karlee both disapproved of my backseat drug use, while neither Alice nor Ezra really batted an eye. Alice had grown so used to my bad behavior that she was almost completely unfazed by anything I did; and Ezra wasn’t going to judge me when he’d already agreed to do Molly with me at the day’s close, which I’d already tucked away safely in my bag.

The next several hours were spent driving to Austin from Houston, listening to whatever playlist Max had selected on her Apple Music, while we avoided any restroom stop that might pose danger to two gay men and three people of color.

Arriving in Austin, the weather was a bit dreary, which served fine for me, as I preferred rainy weather to the typical heat of the early Texas summer. We hit up lunch at Uncle Julio’s, had prosecco mimosas at Max’s Wine Dive, narrowly managed to escape one of the challenges at the Austin Panic Room, went on a temporary tangent about stalking out Tiffany Haddish who was in town doing stand-up, and resigned to Gloria’s for more alcohol. At the end of it all, most of us were slightly inebriated—save for Max who kept her faculties about her so that she could make the three-hour drive home—and I noticed that my friends were all getting along cohesively.

I’d been concerned about this initially, you see, because that did not always turn out to be the case. Karlee—who was one of my oldest friends since we’d been freshman in high school, much like Alice—didn’t always like my newer friends … often rightfully so. She had met Max their first semester at the University of Houston where the two instantly hit it off over their love and adoration for Demi Lovato. Karlee had brought Max to meet me at my Halloween book signing back in 2014 when my second novel had been released. A few days later, Max and I began spending time together. I’m not sure why it happened, but I could tell then that Max—who was new to Houston—needed friends in this new city where she knew few people, and I wanted to make Karlee feel like we were accepting Max as if she’d been our friend all along. And it worked out, too, because Max and I got super closer super quickly. She and I turned out to have a lot of things in common—even a boy, once, but we’ll save that story for another column. And while the friendship outside of our relationship with Karlee did tend to irk Karlee to her core at times, it turned out to be a really great thing for all of us.

Still, Karlee (and now Max) could be a bit overprotective when it came to who we all befriended outside of each other … especially so when that person happened to be a man. We’d all been fucked over by men in the past, and we’d all watched each other have our hearts broken at one point or another. Both these women knew that Ezra was just as much a character archetype in my story as all the men before him. They’d heard me gushing over him after we’d first met, had heard the stories of all the not-dates we’d been on, and even saw me give up on the idea of a relationship with him, only to fall for him again later. They’d witnessed my grand gesture letting him know that I had feelings for him I wanted to pursue if he did, and they’d also watched the aftermath when he’d revealed his asexuality and his lack of romanticism for me.

And that’s why it meant so much to me that they were getting along. Outside of Max’s Wine Dive, while Ezra was inside using the restroom, Max turned to me and exclaimed, “Omigod. He is so handsome.”

“He is,” I agreed with a half-smile, staring at the hollows in my cheeks beneath their bones. I’d been losing a little weight as of late—probably in part to do with the cocaine, but also from a supreme lack of sleep and regular meal intake. I saw my own smile saying something to me. It was hard to tell exactly what it was saying, but it was hopeful, happy somehow.

“He’s much cuter than he is in photos,” Karlee agreed. “Like … his profile picture doesn’t look like him at all.”

“He’s had Lasik since then,” I informed them.

“I think he’s just one of those people who doesn’t know their angles,” Max added. I chuckled and shrugged.

“I really like him,” Karlee told me with one of her hard-to-come-by approving smiles.

I looked back at my reflection, a bit saddened by the fact that I’d finally found one of the good guys that my friends actually approved of, only to have to acquiesce to the fact that we’d never be anything more than friends. “I do, too,” I agreed as Ezra came out the door.

After leaving Gloria’s and stealing a fantastic parking spot on the street from some stranger by standing in it so that she couldn’t take it, the entire group of us wandered into a CVS, bought a giant box of Franzia, and made our way down to Zilker Park on the south side of Austin. Along the way, I pulled the bag containing the Molly out of my pocket, handed one to Ezra, smiled, and said, “Happy birthday to me.”

We popped the capsules into our mouths and swigged down giant chugs of water—which probably wasn’t a bad idea considering that we’d been drinking alcohol all day without intermission. We drove to the park, windows down and blaring hip hop loudly through the city as Max drove recklessly through Austin’s streets. It was the most Houstonian thing we’d done since being out of Houston, save for stealing the parking spot. And though the Molly hadn’t hit yet, I was feeling amazing. I had the good fortune of spending my birthday weekend with some of the people I loved most in the world, and those who loved me most in the world, day-drinking and solving riddles in an escape room. We’d laughed so much that my cheeks hurt, drank until we were speaking in cursive, and ate delicious food at one of my favorite restaurants in the entire state of Texas. But most important, and the thing I knew Karlee and Max had been thinking of when they’d planned this surprise, was that I’d escaped not only the city, but the problems that existed there for me at work, with Pride Houston, and in my personal life. For that one day, I wasn’t Anthony Ramirez the volunteer coordinator, or Anthony Ramirez the editor-in-chief, or Anthony Ramirez the man who drinks and makes jokes instead of coping with things.

I just got to be Anthony, or … Markus, my legal first name by which Karlee and Max took to affectionately calling me. That was a nice feeling. But as the Molly sunk in, as we sang with the cast of Rent to “Seasons of Love” on the grass in the park, as the conversation turned to boys and sex, my stomach began to tighten some; the goodness wasn’t where it had been earlier. In fact, I was starting to feel it less-and-less as the minutes ticked by.

“Oh, yeah,” Ezra said at one point. “This stuff is good. Way better than last time,” he said of the drugs. “My vision just blurred.”

I chuckled while Max went on to talk about the cute Asian guy from the escape room.

“He was cute,” Alice agreed.

“Oh, yeah,” Ezra added. “I would’ve fucked the shit out of him.”

I swear to God I think my face slid right off of my skull.

In wanting to take Molly and wanting Ezra to do it with me so I wouldn’t be rolling by myself, it hadn’t occurred to me that the drugs might make the asexual wonder feel a little … well … sexual.

In an effort to divert from the topic, I turned the music up, then stuck my phone down inside a Solo cup to amplify the sound. Apparently between five Millennials, not one of us had thought to bring a portable speaker. A moment later, Sam Smith played and Max made a comment about how good looking the pop singer was. I made mention that I didn’t find him all that attractive.

“I thought you loved him,” Ezra commented.

“As a vocalist and a songwriter, yeah; but I’m not attracted to him,” I added. Although what I was telling Ezra and the others was true, I typically made a point of not talking about boys in front of Ezra, even silly celebrity crushes that would never be more than that. I’d done it in the past, before I’d ever been truly frank with him about how I felt about him. Back then, my friend Gwen had warned me that doing so might make him take me less seriously as a potential partner, and since then I’d made a point of not striking those sorts of conversations. For one, and regardless of his own feelings, I never wanted Ezra to think that my feelings for him were somehow on par with the little glee I got from the other men in my life or the ones I had sex with. I was sure even then that it probably wouldn’t matter to him whether or not I was vocal about my own sexual escapades and short-lived romances. But there was another part of it that was simply that I secretly didn’t want to warrant him talking about other men. I was, and always have been, a jealous creature, and one whose feelings are easily injured. Had it been Taylor Kyle or Jeremy or Stephen or Dylan or any of the other men I’d crushed on or slept with, I probably wouldn’t be so careful. Those feelings never really ran quite as deep as these did.

After sitting quietly and singing along to the music, darkness fell over the park, and everyone’s stamina for the day had run out. We piled back into Max’s SUV, dashed to the nearest gas station we could find to pee before leaving back for our hometown, bought milkshakes at In-and-Out, and proceeded home. I was trying not to let my own weird, internalized fears of Ezra talking more about men ruin my Molly trip, and after getting a milkshake (which I took two sips of before forgetting about), I had nearly stopped thinking about it at all. But as we were pulling out of the In-and-Out, Ezra began talking again.

“Has anyone seen my phone?” he asked as he looked around the floorboards under the cabin light for it. I looked around for it, as well, but found nothing.

“Did you leave it in the park?” Alice asked from the backseat.

“I hope not. But knowing me, I probably did.”

I slid my hand around the seat between us and found his phone nestled beneath the arm rest. “Here,” I told him as I handed it over, beads of sweat pooling down into my brow as the Molly really took affect. That’s the thing about Molly: it makes you sweaty as fuck; and for someone like myself who pretty much sweats all the time, anyway, that can be disgusting. But the other thing about it is that if you aren’t actually in a good place when you take it, if you’re already bothered by something or battling some sort of undefeatable internal demon, it has the power to heighten that anxiety and fixate you on that problem … especially so if you’re trapped in a car for three hours with a boy you like who says things like:

“Oh, good.” He took the phone from me. “Especially since I’m having a conversation with this cute guy on Grindr.”

I swear to God I nearly shat myself.

I didn’t respond to him—hell, I wasn’t sure what to say—and turned my head instead to look out the window as we left Austin and traveled up-and-down over hill-after-hill through central Texas back to the Gulf Coast. All the while, Ezra could not manage to shut the fuck up. He was talking everyone’s ears off. I asked Max to turn up the music a few times, to which she obliged, but I could still hear Ezra talking through it all about the boy from Grindr.

“He’s gonna come over on Tuesday night and we’re going to watch Steven Universe.” He paused and looked thoughtful. “I don’t think I’ll fuck him,” he said to no one in particular at one point. “Or maybe I will. I don’t know.” As this went on, he engaged Alice in a conversation about how important it is to find the right man to have sex with—Alice was and is a virgin, but by choice, not because of something stupid like religion. Many times, the temptation to scream, “What the fuck do you know about it?” crept up on me, but the mixture of Molly and sheer humiliation kept me silent. It didn’t hurt that I was still swigging down glass-after-glass of Franzia leftover from the park.

But more than the Franzia and the Molly, it was just the humiliation. There I was just after midnight—now my actual birthday—in a car with two of my oldest friends, one of my friends I’d only known a few years but felt as if I’d known forever, and the man I stupidly fell in love with who had softened the blow of breaking my heart by telling me he wasn’t capable of having sexual or romantic feelings. Only, now, he was spouting off fact after fact about some random stranger from the a hookup app he may or may not be having sex with in the near future.

Even in writing a sex column for the last year, I had never felt more like Carrie Bradshaw than I did in that moment. Maybe there was some hallucinogenic effect from the Molly, but I suddenly pictured myself as Carrie Bradshaw in her gorgeous Vivienne Westwood wedding gown as I drove away after Mr. Big—Ezra in this hallucination—had stood me up at the altar. Then, when he’d stopped the limo next to mine, getting out and apologizing for breaking my heart, “I’m asexual. I’m incapable of feeling sexual or romantic. You helped me figure this out about myself,” (I’m paraphrasing), I took my bouquet of magnificently arranged flowers and began beating the living shit out of him with them.

“I am humiliated,” I screamed as Carrie, tears and snot running down my face as that weird peacock feather in my headpiece wiggled loose. Then, coming from the limo, in their three differently colored bridesmaid dresses came Karlee (Miranda), Max (Samantha), and Alice (Charlotte) to pull me away from him before I was charged with battery right outside the New York City Public Library. People were staring, Ezra was explaining; flower petals glided through the air in slow motion as Karlee and Max pulled me off of him. And then there was Alice, also in tears, holding up her bridesmaid dress and pointing a finger at Ezra as she shouted, “NO! No!” while she pulled me by the shoulders and put me back in the car.

When the dream sequence was over, I looked around and found Alice had finally fallen asleep in the third row, Karlee was snoring lightly from the front passenger’s seat, Max was humming along to the music, and Ezra was staring at me while “Take It Like a Man” from Legally Blonde The Musical played over the speakers. The whole sequence in the musical is Elle Woods taking her new friend Emmett shopping to sharpen his image and gain the respect of their boss. It was sort of like Ezra and I the weekend before when I’d been helping him pick out new, more stylish clothes.

He seemed to think so, as well, because he said next, “This was literally us last weekend,” with a slight chuckle.

A bit relieved that the subject had changed, I chuckled without looking at him and agreed, “Yeah, I guess it was.”

But Ezra on Molly was unrelenting and unable to really be stopped. He went on by saying, “Although I think it meant a little more to you than it did to me.” I sighed and shook my head, still looking out the window into the darkness. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

My head snapped around so fast I could have given myself whiplash and the scour on my face was noticeable even to me, who could not see it. “No, I do not want to talk about it, Ezra. Not here. Not now. This is neither the time nor the place.”

“Okay, okay,” he muttered somewhat apologetically. Nevertheless, he persisted. “I’m just saying that I’m not usually up for the sort of deep conversations and if you wanted to talk about it, the best time to do it might be while I’m on Molly.”

“We can talk. When we. Get home,” I grunted through gritted teeth.

We pulled over at a gas station so everyone could pee and reup on water or snacks. Alice slept in the back seat. Max and Karlee stared ahead into the store in the front while I sat watching Ezra meander around the convenience store inside.

“I cannot believe he’s talking about some guy he wants to have sex with in front of you,” Max said.

“I cannot believe he’s still talking,” Karlee added sleepily.

“Like, if he needs to get laid that bad, why won’t he just have sex with Anthony?”

“I do not want to have sex with him,” I snapped. And that much was true. Especially not right that second. In fact, in all the time that I’d had feelings for Ezra, sex had always been the furthest thing from my mind. And that, honestly, came from a place of having had sex with so many men that all I want and had wanted then was and is a relationship with someone who is kind, and who makes me laugh, and who I don’t feel weird hanging around for hours on end because I enjoy just having them next to me. When it came to Ezra, all those qualifiers were checked off the list. He wasn’t someone I thought about when I was having sex with someone else or when I was masturbating. Had the idea crept through my mind? Of course. But it was locked away in a trunk inside my brain. Padlocked. Chained. Key swallowed. Because I knew that if ever that day were to come, it would probably be beyond my expectations. It would certainly be beyond his. He has no idea just how good I am at sex. I’ve made grown men scream in a soprano in the past.

I’m digressing.

Sex was never the point. Sex to me, from someone who had been through his fair share of men and who was capable of catching a dick whenever he wanted one, was becoming less-and-less exhilarating the longer I went without having it with someone I genuinely cared about. And besides, it felt disrespectful to Ezra to think about him that way knowing full and well that our feelings were different for one another.

As we got closer to Houston, more music played, and most of it brought me to silent, ugly tears. At one point, “On My Own” from Les Miserables hummed through the speakers—a song all-too-fitting for that situation.

I love him,
but when the night is over,
he is gone, the river’s just a river.
Without him the world around me changes.
The trees are bare and everywhere
the streets are full of strangers.
I love him, 
but every day I’m learning
all my life I’ve only been pretending. 
Without me, 
his world will go on turning.
A world that’s full of happiness
that I have never known.

“This song is beautiful,” Ezra said, clearly not understanding the present irony of the situation. “Listen to those lyrics. They’re poetry.” He zipped through his phone a little more, typing something and then coming back up for air. Even if he’d just been on his phone and not talking to some vapid, mindless twink on Grindr, I probably still would have been irritated. Even if it had been Alice or Max or Karlee. My biggest pet peeve in the entire world is being surrounded by your friends, especially those you don’t see often, and having their eyes glued to their phones.  

Sam Smith played some more, this time “One Last Song” from his newest album, and I sang the song along with him because I felt like everyone needed to know that I could sing that very difficult song and sing it very well. And soon, without talking to Ezra anymore, we’d arrived back at my house. Everyone hugged and the girls parted ways, but Ezra and I traveled into the house after I’d smoked a cigarette. He was still far too high to be driving home, and instead we got into bed.

My tarot cards were sitting somewhere nearby, and as a way to just alleviate some of the tension inside of me, I shuffled the cards and read what the future had in store for me. There was nothing terribly interesting there. Work stuff, mostly. But as I finished, I caught Ezra watching me, and I asked him if he’d like me to read his, as well.

He nodded, and I gave him the deck to shuffle. As a Jewish Mexican who isn’t necessarily religious or spiritual but was raised in a Southern Baptist church, there are still some things that I do believe in. I practice folk witchcraft in my private time, read tarot cards and palms for friends who want to know if they’ll ever find love, cast spells for safe travels over friends going on vacation like I had once for Ezra, and even hex a motherfucker every now and again if I’m feeling vengeful enough. I instructed my friend to hold the cards in his hands and close his eyes before shuffling them, then asked him to think first of his happiest memory, and then of his saddest. To me, the cards needed to get to know the person being read in order for the read to be accurate.

I never told him this, but as soon as he handed the cards back to me after shuffling them a bit and cutting the deck in half, I too held them close and reflected on my happiest memory. Only, my thoughts needed to be more specific. I chose my happiest memory with Ezra—the night we laid in bed watching movies that I realized how much I actually cared about him—and my saddest with him—earlier that night. And I did so not because I wanted to interfere with his reading, but because I wanted to know just where this friendship would end up down the line. That feeling I got around him—those butterflies—only intensified as time went on. I hated it, but it was true. And while most of the time I could pretend it wasn’t there and act like a friend who wasn’t swooning over him, nights like tonight made that more difficult. I mean, for fuck’s sake, it wasn’t as if I’d ever be able to go Ezra’s wedding. Depending on who I ended up marrying, I’m not even sure any future spouse of mine would be comfortable letting him come to ours. There were so many milestones that we, as two extremely good friends, would probably have to miss because I was dumb enough to go and fall in love with him. I was culpable for that, I guess. So, I just wanted to know what was in store. What was to come.

I clutched the cards and chanted something in Latin on the duvet as Ezra returned to his phone. But as soon as I laid down and saw the very first card, I snatched it up and put it back on top of the deck.

IMG_20180422_015022 It's My Party & I'll Cry If I Want To

“I can’t do this,” I mumbled to myself as I snatched the deck up and slid it in my pocket.

Ezra nodded and said, “I understand,” while he laid back against the pillows. I took a moment to turn on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, then excused myself from the bedroom to go smoke a cigarette. Only, I didn’t go and smoke a cigarette. Instead, I went to the kitchen, flipped on the lights, found a bottle of tequila in the top of the pantry, took a giant gulp of it, and then laid the cards out in a Celtic Cross spread on the counter as they would have been laid had I drawn the rest.

In the center and upright was the card I’d seen earlier—the Lovers. It’s a card that is … well … pretty self-explanatory. Lying over it was the King of Cups, the ultimate man of love, compassion, and caring. Together these cards represented a union with … well … one of the good guys. In the cause spot sat Judgement in the reverse position, which read that if there was a relationship that was to unfold, it wouldn’t happen until both parties began to listen to the inner voice in their heads and due to a lack of preconceived ideas about the relationship or the other person. In the past position was the Nine of Wands, the card of past damage, abandonment, and hurt. In the attitudes space was the Ten of Wands, a card that appears unfortunate and traumatic, but one that usually represents, in terms of ideas, making something out of nothing and letting small tragedies rule one’s life. In the near future position was the Wheel of Fortune. Again, self-explanatory. In the seventh space representing how we see ourselves came the Five of Pentacles, which reveals a person who is exhausted, tired, depressed, experiencing hard times, and even rejected. Above it, the space of the outsider’s perspective, was the Four of Wands, the card of celebration and excitement. Next was the key factor, the Ten of Wands—burdens, overworking, overextending oneself. It symbolized how life at the time was tougher than it normally might be, and how jading and daunting that could make anything seem. And then there was the last card, the final outcome—the Empress—the card of my birthday. The Empress is indicative of the joys of life in all its forms, especially so in those things we make new. She is the reminder of where your roots are planted and that what is most important to us is usually already surrounding us. She is, in conjunction with the Lovers, a card that represents fulfillment of the heart.

IMG_20180422_032423 It's My Party & I'll Cry If I Want To

Bullshit,” I muttered as I swept up the cards and threw them against the wall, lighting a cigarette inside the house and then venturing out to the front porch. The reading could have been about the two of us together. Then again, it could have been about me somehow soon moving on from Ezra and learning to just be his friend. Who knew? That’s the trouble with trying to see the future. It’s subjective. It changes with every action we make or thought we have. Nothing, not really, is written in the stars.

When I returned inside, Ezra was less talkative and probably coming down off the Molly some.

“I’m trying to get better at being a person,” he said quietly and without prompt. “That’s why I wanted you to take me shopping for new clothes. That’s probably what I’m doing with this boy from Grindr. I’m just trying to try new things.”

Instead of getting mad at him for bringing up that stupid little twink troll from hell again, I instead asked Ezra for his hand.

“Are you gonna put a spell on me?” he teased.

“No,” I sort of laughed. “Just give it to me.”

When he did, I laced my fingers between his own, and I rubbed my thumb gently against the side of his. Then, at a volume at which he couldn’t hear me, I whispered, “There’s no reason to worry about being a different person than the one you are. There are people, me likely most of all, who met you as you are and wouldn’t want to change that person, even if we could.”

And then I just held his hand a bit longer, just because it felt nice. Comfortable. The hands fit well together, even if the people they belonged to never would. But I gave it back to him before he freaked out and laid there in silence while the movie played. Soon, he was ready to go home, even though I knew he still shouldn’t be driving. And as we hugged goodbye and I watched him scurry to his car from my perch on the front porch, I lit another cigarette and called to him.

“Ezra,” I said just loud enough for him to hear me. He turned and I took a few steps nearer to him. It was hard, and at first my mouth just hung open while my brain and my heart tried to shove the words I needed to say out of it. But soon enough, I was finally able to mutter, “In the future, I don’t think you should talk to me about boys from Grindr.” It was succinct and summed up enough about what I needed to say. Not nearly all of it, but enough for now. Then, I turned around, flicked the cigarette off into the yard, and went to sleep quite quickly.


A few short hours later, I woke and immediately began to cry. The MDMA had likely stifled my ability to really feel what I needed to feel, and the lack of serotonin after taking it was probably only making it all the worse. I cried for hours, unable to get up or to talk to anyone about what was going on.

Soon, I had to retrieve Ezra’s laptop bag he’d left in Max’s car and take it to him. Even upon arriving at him apartment, I struggled to get out of the car for fear that when I saw him I might begin bawling again. I kept the conversation short, not even passing through the threshold into his house. But as soon as the door closed behind me, I ran back to my car and flew back into hysterics over the boy who was not able to love me.

After a while, I trekked to Gwen’s house, far away from the people who had witnessed my humiliation and in need of someone to talk to about it, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t ready to do so. She asked me what was wrong, and multiple times over I told her I wasn’t quite ready to talk about it. Instead, we went into her recording studio and for a few hours we played instrumentals from YouTube and I belted songs of sadness between glasses of wine as I fought back tears. I sang them as if I meant them—and I did. Especially so when I sang a transposed version of “On My Own.”

On my own,
pretending he’s beside me …” 

And soon, we retired to her back porch where we sat in hanging hammock chairs as I downed the remainder of the wine in my glass and finally brought myself to tell Gwen everything that happened the night before. And then, when I was done, I could only sit there crying again. I was heartbroken.  Understandably, Gwen was livid.

“He did what?” she asked through gritted teeth. “Does he not understand why that isn’t appropriate? Did he not realize who he was talking to or that it was your birthday for chrissakes?”

“You know,” I said through sniffles, “I have so many issues with men already. My father left me when I was a child. He would come in and out of my life at his own fucking fancy. The first man I ever loved loved me, as well, but is marrying a woman. All of my exes have either been philandering whores or can’t commit to me or tell me that as much as they do care about me, they just don’t see our relationship going anywhere. And here I am, in a place where I’ve found someone who really makes me happy, someone who really has been one of the good guys—even when he told me wasn’t in love with me. And I was okay with that, because he was a good guy. Because he wasn’t like the other men who had broken my heart.” I paused and poured a new glass of wine. “And then he did this.”

“You have every right to feel this way,” Gwen said as she shook her head and clucked her tongue.

“It’s more than just the heartbreak,” I told her. “Yes, I love him—I’m in love with him. But I could have dealt with the heartbreak by itself. I’ve done that more times than a few.” I shook my head and lit a cigarette, staring off into the distance. “What gets me—what really is tearing me up inside is that I feel lied to. And that wasn’t something I was expecting from him. In fact, he was the last person I expected that from. And what was all of this about me dressing him in a brand new wardrobe, by the way? Was that just so that he could feel good enough about himself to go out and flaunt his newfound self for the world to see so that he could meet boys? For fuck’s sake, this is the man who first told me he wasn’t going to date while he was living in Houston, because he knew he’d be moving soon anyway; and then told me he was an aromantic asexual. I don’t—I just—I don’t know what to believe.”

“I get it,” she agreed. “You went out on this fragile fucking limb and made this grand gesture toward him, expressing your love for him for the entire world to see, and he told you that as much as he did love you, he wasn’t able to experience romantic or sexual feelings. And then he turns around and does this so soon after. You could have existed knowing that he couldn’t have a relationship with you, because he made it sound like he’d never have one with anyone. And you got to at least be one of the few people he loved most in the world—”

“But that’s just it,” I managed through huffs and heaves of my own breath. “I don’t think he was lying, but it doesn’t change the fact that his actions say otherwise. And I go through this thing with myself where I am constantly working to be a better person. I am constantly making myself more available to people who need me. I am constantly fighting against my own inner-monologue that tells me that there is something wrong with me—that I am not good enough to be loved. And this—” I gasped. My body was trying to fight back words I wasn’t ready to verbalize just yet. “ … is there something wrong with me, Gwen?” Tears and dignity fell down my face in streams of hopelessness and defeat. “Am I really not lovable?”

Gwen cried then, too. And turned her chair to face me and demanded that I look at her.

“You listen to me,” she said. “And I’m not bullshitting you here, and I wouldn’t tell this to just anyone. But there is nothing unlovable about you. You are one of the smartest, kindest, sweetest, funniest, most accomplished, and most lovable people that I have ever known. You give so much of yourself to others in everything that you do and give your love to a lot of people—and many of them do not deserve it.”

I lost my shit there. Compliments had never been something I was good at receiving.

“But you need to understand that you are wise beyond your years and you have grown up faster than most people your age. And you’re ready for love. But Ezra? He’s not. Do I want to rob him of his identity as someone who is asexual and aromantic? No. But it does feel a little bit like a cop-out right now. It probably isn’t, and the Molly probably made him say a lot of the things he said last night. But there’s one thing that I do know based on knowing you and having followed this story since the beginning. And that’s that you have been ready to receive love for a very long time, and he’s just not there yet. And maybe that will change, but you cannot make yourself feel culpable for what someone else did to you. All you’ve ever tried to do was give him your love. You don’t have to feel upset with yourself or feel like there’s anything wrong with you just because he can’t accept it. Because someone will be ready to accept it eventually, and probably soon. And there may come a day when he is ready to be loved, and he’s going to realize what an amazing thing he missed out on.”

I exhaled a heavy breath, sniffling again, and unsure of what to say.

Gwen had only one last piece of wisdom to share with me. Advice, really.

“He owes you an apology. And, when you’re ready and have sorted through your feelings, you need to let him know how badly this hurt you, even just as your friend. Because friends don’t do this sort of thing to their friends. No matter if they’re in love with them or if they just love them platonically.”


I didn’t get out of bed much for the next week. Stupidly, I’d agreed to keep Ezra’s dog, Dorito, while he went to visit friends out of town. But unlike the times I normally sat with Dorito, my visits were short and with a mission. I was there to feed the dog, take the dog out, spend a little time with him, and then I had to go. I couldn’t make myself stay in his house any longer than I had to or sleep overnight in his bed. It was too much. In my head, all I could hear was Ezra talking about the little sugarplum twink fairy he may or may not have had sex with right there on the sectional, or around the corner in his bedroom.

I felt haunted.

So, I made the visits short, and then I would leave and return to my bed. I didn’t go to work. I didn’t answer phone calls or text messages unless they were of the utmost importance. I spent a solid week away from the world, crying because I felt like some disgusting creature incapable of being loved, and waited until I had the guts to face him again.

I’d been dating since high school, been cheated on, pushed around, lied to, left to plant another seed in the field of broken hearts. Then, I’d finally found someone I wanted to get off of that vicious merry-go-round with, to stand still with, as Carrie once said. I just didn’t understand why he didn’t want to stand still with me. Moreover, I didn’t understand how someone who loved me even a little bit could put me through that in front of my friends and on my birthday.

Still, I knew Ezra Rochester was not a bad guy. In fact, I knew him still to be one of the good guys. Even if he hadn’t then apologized and still has not, everyone fucks up once in a while. Mistakes are made. And to not accept that someone has made a mistake is self-righteous. Even the best of the best of us fuck up every now and again. This one lapse in judgment didn’t undermine all the good he’s done in his life, nor did it take away from the sweet and caring friend he’d been to me. But that didn’t change the fact that I was defeated and unsure of how long it would take me to get back onto my feet.

As it turned out, it was going to take a while … and it wasn’t going to be a healthy coping ritual. 

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.

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.