Less Than Butterflies

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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.

Love Me Tinder, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 1

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

–Candace Bushnell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“You really were,” Alice muttered.

“Was he flirting back?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Not an option.

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

Continue to Part II

Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 4

I’d only ever had an experience with one guy from Grindr before in my life, and it had been enough at the time to steer me clear of hookup apps for a while. It’s a story for another day, but as previously mentioned, it involved a man urinating on me as I was knelt down in the shower to blow him. Still, being that my sex drive had hit its peak and that over a year had passed since that nauseating experience, I was inclined to download Grindr and Scruff in the hopes of finding someone willing to have sex with me immediately.

One night, as I was sitting in my office writing, my phone buzzed beside me. I peered up at the clock in the upper-right-hand corner of my laptop and realized it was nearly a quarter past three. As many normally-drunk friends as I had, I couldn’t imagine a single one of them texting me after two, unless it was from the side of the road as they prepared to be incarcerated. But as I slid my home screen away on my phone, I realized that it was no one I knew at all. In fact, it wasn’t a text message at all.

It was a Grindr notification I’d missed nearly an hour before.

Screenshot_20171130-222922-e1512206803118-253x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. II

Where a profile picture should have been for this man was only the shadowy avatar that comes by default with a profile to which one hasn’t attached a photo. Moreover, where there should have been some sort of headline or name, there was nothing. All that stood beside the avatar was a bright green dot indicating he was online and the words 1 mile away.

Assuming it was more than likely some creepy dude I had no interest in wasting my time with, I decided to be a bit more petty.

Screenshot_20171130-222929-e1512207123630-286x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. IIFor a creep, he wasn’t coming off terribly … well … creepy. I mean, sure, he had initiated the conversation by offering me a blowjob, but it was a Grindr message, after all. What else was I expecting? An invitation to a romantic evening at the symphony?

As the banter played out a bit more without so much sexual connotation, I found myself oddly aroused. I’d gotten messages on Grindr the last few days that always ended up being an offer to either pound me, a request to be pounded, or an unsolicited dick pic. This man, however, was actually quite clever—a quality I assert to be very important in the men I engage with romantically, though not necessarily for those I engage with strictly sexually.

Screenshot_20171130-222938-e1512207342326-300x228 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. IIWhen the picture arrived next, I was shocked, to say the least. His face felt very familiar to me. Not the sort of familiar that surprises you when you recognize your eighth grade math teacher in line at the grocery store, but can’t place her name. It wasn’t even the kind of familiar you experience seeing the stranger you’d smiled at as you’d pumped gas into your car groggily before work one morning suddenly walked past you a second time. It was as if I’d seen him more than once and actually acknowledged him.

Aside from that, he was quite attractive. He bore olive skin and a some slight, messy facial hair. His eyes looked sleepy from having just woken up. His eyes were the color of a dark, natural honey and lips were plump and pink with a sheepish smile.

 Screenshot_20171130-222945-1-e1512207625710-259x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. IIScreenshot_20171130-222950-e1512207814758-247x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. IIScreenshot_20171130-222957-1-e1512208234376-245x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. IIScreenshot_20171130-223005-e1512208035204-248x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. II

 

I’ve always had a massive complex about my weight and size. I’m not like morbidly obese or anything like that. In fact, I must not be terrible to look at considering how much dick I was catching before I’d sworn off sex for three straight months in the name Never-Will-Love-Me-Ezra. But the photo on my profile had been taken by my friend, Iris, when she was visiting for the party and made me look at bit thinner than I ever perceived myself to be. So, I sent him another photo someone had taken of me as I’d been hosting the Volunteer Open House for Pride Houston the same weekend my profile photo had been taken.

Only, I realized quite quickly that I looked rather slender in that photo, as well. Maybe I’d lost a little weight without realizing. I certainly hadn’t been eating much as my workload consistently increased.

 Screenshot_20171130-223014-e1512208548730-250x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. II

Screenshot_20171130-223020-e1512208931871-249x300 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. II

I eventually gave him my number and told him to text me while I thought about it. Only … I didn’t have to think about it long. I wasn’t as coy as I’d been pretending to be with this man. I’d been in need of sex for far too long. I certainly wasn’t going to let the fact that my hair was up, or that I had eaten pork earlier that day, or that I was wearing a pair of volleyball shorts that read eat me across the ass stop me from getting laid. In fact, the latter of those had actually been for the purposes of doing so.

So I dashed to my bathroom, brushed my teeth, pulled my hair down, ran a brush through my short, chocolate-colored locks, and applied a new coat of deodorant. When I’d finished, I slid the shorts off of me, then took off my underwear and threw them into my messenger bag.

It’d been three months. And as I stared at those underwear in my bag, all I saw were another few seconds longer I’d have to wait to be touched by a man.


If it was possible, I’d say he was even better looking in person than he had been in his photo. In fact, he sort of bore a slight resemblance to Jeremy Piven … minus the sexual assault.

Forgetting to first exchange names, he showed me around his apartment, talking to me in a smooth, yet masculine voice. He became apologetic about the fact that his living room was a bit of a mess and about how he’d left a pile of laundry in the corner of his bedroom. I wasn’t seeing any of that, though. All I could focus on was just how fucking beautiful this man was. And as he led me to the bed and took my hands into his own, he suddenly didn’t feel like some stranger from Grindr. When he placed his hands on my waist to pull my shorts down, it didn’t seem at all like we’d just met.

And soon enough, he was completely nude, illuminated only by the light coming from his half-shut closet. He was what other gays would call an otter. Chiseled frame. A little hair on his chest and stomach. Manly.

Staring at him took my breath away, a bit … and not in a good way. It suddenly became very plain to me that this man—though polite and funny and ever-so-willing to sleep with me—was vastly out of my league. To be honest, if I were him and he were me, I wouldn’t have even given myself a second look. Yet there he was beside me on the bed, kissing me like his high school sweetheart and wrapping his legs up inside of mine.

And as the foreplay grew more intense, so did my anxiety. I couldn’t help it. I was sure I was only minutes away from breaking into hives or losing the ability to breathe. Still, my anxiety didn’t manifest in those typical ways that it did when I hadn’t met a deadline or when I had spent too much time at my mother’s house. No, rather than falling verklempt or beginning to shake uncontrollably, my body took on my nervousness and insecurities in a brand new way.

By keeping me from getting an erection.

For nearly half an hour, I did everything I could to distract him from the fact that I wasn’t getting hard. Don’t get me wrong, I was very turned on. It’s just that I didn’t appear to be aroused. I started by sucking him off, which proved difficult because he had to have had the largest dick I’d ever seen in person. Still, he must not have sensed the fact that I was about to choke to death the entire time, as he kept telling me I could teach lessons on how to give a blowjob because I was so good at it.

Oh, how proud my mother would be.

When he was getting a little too close to climax, he rolled over on his back, ass-up, and asked me to fuck him.

The problem was that I still couldn’t. I’d been going down on him for the better part of ten minutes and all I’d managed to erect was a list of ways to distract him from the fact that I couldn’t get it up. It took everything in me not to take my dick to the side for a last minute pep talk. So, instead, I did something I know I’m very good at, but that I only do to men I’ve slept, to whose hygiene I can attest.

The rimming process probably didn’t last as long as the blowjob, but he certainly was more vocal about it than he was about the latter. I was doing everything that I could to run my flag up its pole, but nothing was doing the trick.

A moment later, when I’d pulled my tongue out of his asshole, he rolled over and asked me if I’d rather him be on his knees on his back. I didn’t even give him enough time to answer before I laid down next to him and pulled him in to make out with him some more. As we kissed more, he reached for both my hands and took them into his own. It wasn’t something I’d experienced often when hooking up with strangers—the hand-holding, even the kissing—but I took it in, basked in it, even. There was something romantic about it, something that made this feel like we weren’t going to just be fucking one out and high-fiving when it was over. Contrary, and though I’m not sure I can explain why, it felt more like I was making love to someone I’d known and loved for years and years.

Still, I couldn’t bring my penis to cooperate. It was almost as though it was down there napping after a long shift at work, when in fact the motherfucker had been laid off for the last three months. Anxiety and self-consciousness or not, there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to perform this simple task—one men have been doing without effort since the dawn of time.

He was absolutely perfect. To say that he was the man of my dreams might be too literal, as he felt familiar to me in a way I could only recall as if I’d created him myself. Everything about him was perfect. His ass. His face. His slight facial hair. The way he held my left hand with his right. And as he kissed me, I ran my hands down his well-muscled arms, which had just reached down to find my penis … flaccid.

He did his best to make it work, but nothing came of it. He grazed his ass against my pubis, rubbed his pelvis against mine as we kissed. He kissed me from head-to-toe, then back again.

Finally, feeling so humiliated that I couldn’t stand it anymore, I began to sit up.

“I’m so sorry,” I told him. “I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but I really do mean it: this has never happened to me before. And it really isn’t you. It’s me.”

“It’s okay,” he said as soft as the lighting the haloed the room.

“No, it’s not okay,” I told him. “You are … very attractive. In fact, you are the most attractive man I’ve ever been in bed with. Like … if I were to show my friends a photo of you and told them that you actually wanted to have sex with me, they’d call me a liar and slap me in the mouth.”

But the man whose name I still did not know didn’t laugh at my little remark, nor did he break from that bedeviling look on his face. Instead, he said, “Hey,” and again, “hey,” while his left arm snaked around me and the knuckles of his right hand nearly levitated from my thigh up to my chin. He pushed my face up to look into his eyes and said, “It’s okay,” before he kissed me. “You don’t need to apologize.”

His hand trailed back down my shirt—which due to self-consciousness I’d never taken off—and fell lightly into the space between my thighs.

As cliché as it sounds, I shuddered and let out a gasp. His fingers swam in place between my legs as he kissed me more, both our lips moving gradually from softness to heat and fury on both our parts until I felt something down below become participatory.

“Hey,” I panted out as he moved his lips from mine and to my neck. “It’s uh … it’s um …” I could barely catch my breath. “It’s working.”

The rest was easy. He’d never lost his erection; and from there we quickly went back to what we’d started, and—so caught up in the growing heat—ended almost just as quickly at the exact same time (another one of those things that’s never happened for me during a hookup).

When he came, his ejaculate shot so far that one might have believed he’d been packing a paintball gun down there. I’d later tell Hayden this and show him the spot on the collar of my black shirt where his cum had landed in the shape of a lipstick mark left on someone’s cheek. To this Hayden would say, “Omigod, it looks like his dick reached up and kissed you.”

And though my insecurities had mostly evaporated, my natural instinct after we’d finished was to bolt. Throughout my late teens and early twenties, I’d never slept with a man I wasn’t dating that wanted to cuddle or be intimate afterward. In fact, even the men I had dated didn’t want that. But as I was rolling away to collect my shorts and shoes and glasses, that arm that had remained wrapped around me through the entire second half of our performance strong-armed me back in and laid my head on his shoulder. And from there, he intertwined his legs with mine, kissed me more, and found my hand to nestle his fingers into the spaces between mine.

Then, just like that, all of the insecurity really was gone. I was lying there with a complete stranger I felt like I’d known my entire life. And despite the … um … hiccups in the beginning, it was still some of the very best sex I’d ever had in my life.

“I really am sorry about before,” I felt the need to say again.

He squeezed my hand. “Don’t be,” he told me, now playing with my fingers. “I mean, clearly everything worked out.”

He had a point. We didn’t embrace too much longer. He had to get ready for work and I needed to get back there myself. Still, as insane as it sounds, lying there, even through all the messiness at the very beginning, I was beginning to feel something flutter inside of me I’d not felt in a long while.

Butterflies.

At that point, it wasn’t even about the fact that his body appeared to be molded out of clay fresh from the kiln. He could have been the world’s ugliest man, and to have been so kind to me in a moment of extreme weakness, so tender and caring and without applying pressure, I happily would have stayed with him until he finally tired of me.

But maybe that was just me. I mean, sure, it was all more intimate than any other hook-up I’d ever had. Still, could it just have been me romanticizing something that would be over and never spoken of again?

I didn’t believe it then.

I don’t now.

But it didn’t change the fact that I was still in the process of getting over one boy. I wasn’t going to allow myself to fall too quickly into another messy situation with another—even if this one might actually like me for something more than sex. So, I sat up and he did the same to kiss me goodbye. Then I made my way to the door to exit quietly. Although, I was on such a high of natural ecstasy and was so enamored by his kindness that I got all the way out the door before I realized I’d left both my shoes and my cell phone.

So much for going quietly.


Later, I texted him again to apologize another time. I’m not sure why I kept apologizing, but I didn’t want that to be a lasting impression of me that he had.

It was only then that I realized that I’d gone through all of that and still had no idea what this man’s name was. But it didn’t matter. I knew I’d learn it someday. Because right then and there, as I laid down in bed at home and drifted off to sleep in which I’d dream about how amazing that one short hour had been, I felt something wash over me I’d never felt before in my entire life. Not with any of my exes. Not with Taylor Kyle. Not even with Ezra.

And it might sound absolutely, certifiably insane, but as that wave enveloped me, I just knew that I was going to marry that man someday.

Screenshot_20171202-040728-e1512210721890-300x265 Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. II


Return to part I.

Like Thelma & Louise

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 6

(for “Stephen”)

platonic love

noun, often capitalized P

1: love conceived by Plato as ascending from passion for the individual to contemplation of the universal and ideal

2: a close relationship between two persons in which sexual desire is nonexistent or has been suppressed or sublimated 


Of all the stereotypes that exist and are for the most part unfounded and untrue about the culture of gay men, there is one that has stood the test of time because of its extreme accuracy. That is that amongst gay men, platonic love is nearly nonexistent. Maybe it has something to do with the hormones of a person who is biologically male, or maybe it’s just simply due to the fact that sex has never been more accessible than it is today. After all, people—whether gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, or otherwise—are complicated machines. To presumptuously agree that all gay men have had sex with most of their gay male friends would be to generalize, and therefore further perpetuate the stereotype. Still, it’s kind of true. Furthermore, Plato’s actual theory of Platonism delves much deeper into philosophy than just human emotion—extending into ideas, numerical values, and much more. With that in mind, it only makes sense that even one facet of his theory—that which regards love and lust—would be difficult to reason.

But it is that complication—and that of all great philosophers and their ideas—that makes life interesting. It’s the whys and the hows and—more often than not—the what-the-fucks. It’s these little idiosyncrasies that keep us, as humans, on our toes and allow us to experience emotion, whether that be love, hate, elation, and often just downright anxiety.

Still, as much as I hate to say it and to therefore presume a generalization, there’s little deniability regarding the fact that gay men don’t often have meaningful—or even unmeaningful—relationships that don’t, at some point, involve sex. I say ‘little,’ of course, because a gay man will often meet another gay man that they are in no way sexually attracted to and for whom they retain no romantic feelings. And every now and then, once in a blue moon—if the men in question have not written off one another due to the aforementioned fact—those two gay men will begin to converse and find that they do have ideas and ambitions and personality traits in common that will bring them together again. They may be forced to do this by work, or brought together by a mutual friend. But if that seemingly mythical rarity holds true, the two might go for coffee at Siphon or a $10 bottle of wine at Barnaby’s. And there, they might spark a kinship and see one another again, and then again after that. All the while, and as sparsely as the occasion may arise, those two gay men might become friends and maintain that Platonism throughout their friendship over a long period of time.

I have had this experience once or twice, but most significantly with my best friend, Stephen. I call Stephen my best friend, not entirely sure whether or not he realizes we kind of are best friends at this point. Although, even the story of our friendship rests just on the border of this theory as a whole, considering that when Stephen and I met, I was attracted to him. He was cute and smart and hardworking, a chairman for Pride Houston. For a while, Alice and I even exclusively referred to him as ‘Hot Stephen.’ My affinity for him, after meeting him all of two times, led me to join the nonprofit as a chairman, as well. Although, it was our time there together that quashed that affection for him. He never became less attractive or any dumber—quite the contrary, he actually only got better looking and his intelligence revealed itself more as we spent time together.

Yet somehow, my romantic interest in Stephen extinguished naturally (and quite quickly at that), and the two of us grew close as friends over the course of nearly two years. And after a while, I had settled into the resolve that Stephen had become my best friend—my best friend for whose boyfriend I also came to care dearly; my best friend I shared secrets with that I was often scared to admit to myself; my best friend with whom I discussed our sex lives and our families; my best friend who became a part of not just my personal life, but my work life, as well.

Stephen was my best friend—or at least, my best gay male friend—regardless of whether or not I was his. And just as quickly as I’d romanticized him after only meeting those fateful two times, any feelings of sexual ardor I ever had for him—no matter how short a time they may have existed—evaporated from me.

That is until the day that Stephen had to go and fuck that up for the both of us.


I was making the short trip down to Galveston to meet with some advertisers for the magazine and to have a Sunday Funday, as we gays love to do. With me was an entourage of friends, which included, but was not limited to, Ezra, Alice, my friend Derek and his partner (also named Derrick), and a few others. The day had not gone by without event, nor without sobriety after a fair share of drinks for all of us. What started out as a handful of quick meetings at the gay bar Rumors on the Seawall turned into several handfuls of alcohol, another meeting at Lafitte’s, margaritas at Salsas, more meetings and drinks back at Rumors, and one final meeting (and more drinks) at 23rd Street Station.

Yes, we’d hit all the gay bars, attended about eight meetings with drag show directors, bar owners, Pride celebration leadership, Galveston socialites, and many others like them. And due to the fact that I’d popped a few prescription pills that morning, had a handful of tequila shots, drank my weight in vodka, and paid for virtually none of it, I was drunk before we’d even made it to our second location.

My buzz had lightened some by the time we’d made our way to 23rd, but the last two meetings proved difficult for me to get through, as retention and communication were not two of my strong suits at that particular moment in time. Still, I flew through them just before 9 PM, and checked my phone to see when we’d need to start heading back to Houston.

Upon doing so, I discovered the inevitable text from Stephen, who had also gone out that night back in Houston. Originally planning to come with us for Sunday Funday with his boyfriend, Leo, Stephen had at the last minute decided he’d stay in Houston to do some work, as he was doing his best not to drink for a full month. The text, however, was a clear indicator to me that he’d slipped through the cracks of his four week plan and had been drinking. That’s sort of the beauty of having a platonic friend, you’re so undistracted by lust and desire that you pay more attention to their mannerisms and personality quirks.

Screenshot_20180123-004731-300x247 Like Thelma & Louise

 

And I knew that if Stephen was asking my location, it meant he either was or needed to be drinking.

No sooner than I’d hit the ‘SEND’ button on the text, Stephen was calling to drunkenly lament about a fight he’d had with one of his few other platonic, gay friends. It was a nasty debacle, one that I knew—even in my own drunkenness and without hyperbole—could be potentially damaging to their friendship.

“I just feel like I really need to be around my real friends right now, and around people who don’t treat me this way and that care about me and appreciate me and that I care about and appreciate.” Stephen was the king of run-on sentences when he was drunk. Meanwhile, I’d stepped up to a urinal to pee while he went on about the situation.

“All right. We’ll be there in 30 minutes,” I told him, zipping my scrotum by mistake into my jeans. “Ouch! Fuck!”

“No! No, don’t let me take you away from your day in Galveston. Stay there. I’ll be fine.”

“No, it’s okay. I just got out of my last meeting. We were about to leave anyway.”

That part was no lie. We’d been drinking since noon, and everyone had all but hit their walls. I, on the other hand, didn’t mind going to Stephen, due simply to my own social anxiety that was nearly symptomatic of being around so many people for such a long period of time. It would be a nice change of pace and a good way to decompress before going home—or so I thought.

Screenshot_20180123-004802-250x300 Like Thelma & Louise

I rounded the herds and we left the island. I explained to Ezra, Alice, and Jared (another friend who’d come along with us, and the magazine’s photographer) the situation and the urgency to return home. So, we made our way back to the city hastily, and I returned Jared and Ezra to their cars before Alice and I made our way to Rich’s.

Upon entering, I was faced with the reminder that Bunnies on the Bayou was having their annual Snow Bunnies event that night, which led to me having to pay a cover charge despite the fact that it was only just 9 o’clock on a Sunday. “Fuckers,” I mumbled under my breath as I handed over $10 for both Alice and I to the Bunny who also happened to be my former co-chair at Pride. I wasn’t his biggest fan.

We found Stephen on the patio. I approached him from behind and grabbed him by both sides of his waist, which resulted in him jumping off the ground and nearly knocking over another person’s drink.

“So, I see that your month without alcohol has come to a crashing halt,” I teased.

“Girl, you started this. You gave me Prosecco yesterday.” That much was true. But it was less than a full glass and it was lunchtime, after all.

“Thank you for coming,” he told me with eyes that were not only glassy from being drunk, but red and puffy from having, at the very least, fought back tears. Stephen ordered the two of us a drink, and Alice sat tiredly on a bench against the back wall while he went back into his spiel about the argument between he and his friend. I could see almost the entire thing playing out in my head. His friend, Mike, had probably been taken aback as a drunk, hurt Stephen launched into a diatribe about how Mike had been a shitty friend. Sad as it may be, the argument was almost the perfect centerpiece to any night out amongst the gays.

All I did was listen to Stephen. It didn’t feel like he really wanted my advice; and in being friends for the short time we had been, I’d learned when he was looking for advice and when he wasn’t. This was one of those opportunities I was meant to learn from in the art of listening and empathy—not two of my strong suits. Once he’d calmed down some, Stephen and I discussed Pride and our lives and things that let his mind wander away from the showdown with Mike. Truthfully, Stephen probably wasn’t much drunker than I was. In fact, I’d seen him far more drunk at many times during our friendship. Something about him, however, was different than anything I’d ever seen in Stephen before.

Certainly, I’d seen Stephen disappointed and angry and upset. But as I watched him talk and tried my best to keep up, I could sense something about him to which I hadn’t before bore witness.

He was wounded. There he was, after two weeks of not drinking (and that’s just wine; he hadn’t had liquor in nearly three months), alone in a busy club where he’d just taken an emblematic blow to the head and to the heart. The only friend he’d come there with had abandoned him for the very people they’d been fighting about in the first place, and he had no one else.

I was glad to be there for him. I was glad to be his friend when there weren’t any others within reach—or maybe even when there weren’t any others willing to extend their capacities to his emotional needs. Stephen was not a reactionary, nor was he terribly emotional. He was one of those grown-up, gay men who dealt with his issues by taking a reasonable, pragmatic approach to them. This Stephen—the one who had obviously cried a bit and had been left to feel the humiliation and exile of feeling as though no one wants you around—was new to me. And though I wasn’t glad to see him melancholy, I did accept and appreciate the fact that I was the friend he’d called to his side.

Soon enough, Leo arrived, and Alice and I prepared to leave the couple at Rich’s to enjoy themselves. As we parted ways, Stephen leaned in to hug me, planting a soft and sisterly kiss on the cheek, then turned to Alice, who—devoid of all social skills—awkwardly offered her hand to him for a nice, sturdy shake. I then hugged Leo, after which Stephen intercepted yet another hug from me.

Only this time, as I pulled away at the close, Stephen clasped his hands around my what-should-be biceps, and firmly gripped me in a momentary pause. The world seemed to slow down then, and I found a genuine confusion invading my mind as to what he was doing. Although, before I could generate any logic or reason, Stephen leaned forward and kissed me right on the mouth, right in front of God, Alice, his boyfriend, and half the Houston gay community standing around.

And for a moment, there was a flutter inside my chest. It was the kind that comes when those butterflies inside of you take flight, and their wings tickle your insides as they bounce from wall-to-wall looking for a way out. It was exactly as I’d have imagined it to be back when I was interested in Stephen. Scruffy from his beard. Soft from his lips. And somehow tranquil, in spite of the anxiety that was building at a lightning-quick speed inside of me. I mean, this was Stephen, my now-best friend, but someone we’d also formerly and affectionately referred to as Hot Stephen when Alice and I first met him. But there was another part of me that was much louder and much less unprecedented. It was a voice in my head and my heart that screamed, “No! We’re sisters! Sisters don’t do this! Sis, stop! Sis! Sissy!”

Then, although it seemed to last a lifetime, it was over. Stephen relinquished me and without another word, Alice and I silently trudged back through Rich’s toward the door, my freshly-kissed mouth agape the entire time. Both Alice and I decided against speaking of it on the ride home, but we both knew what had just happened.

Anthony Ramirez had been kissed on the mouth by Hot Stephen. If you’d told him this about two years prior, he would have called you a liar, but also jumped for joy. Now? Not so much. 

But Anthony Ramirez—me, that is—wasn’t jumping for joy. Instead, I just stood around confused as to why that had happened. Sure, I could chalk it up to the fact that Stephen was very, very drunk. But it didn’t account for all the times I’d seen him much drunker and how he’d not ever put his lips on me then. I could also argue that we’d just shared an intimate moment where Stephen was feeling a great deal of pain, and I was the only person who’d arrived to help—making it not a kiss of romance, but one of gratitude and kinship. It was the type of kiss Thelma and Louise shared before they took their fateful dive off the cliff at the end of the film. And truthfully, wasn’t that what we were? Thelma and Louise? Ride-or-dies? Laverne and Shirley? Tia and Tamera? 

And maybe that’s all that it was. After all, the American culture is one of the very few that equates all lip-to-lip kissing to a signifier of romance. Around the world, a kiss is nothing more than a symbol of many kinds of affection. Certainly it was nothing more than a one-off thing executed only after the culmination of many drinks and many more feelings of sorrow and closeness.

Still, it begged the question in my mind for days after: was that all it was?

I mean, while very different people, there were many medians in which Stephen and I met due to similar interests, likes, dislikes, and opinions. We were both educated gay men who were informed and cultured and enjoyed the arts and talking about sex and boys and drinking wine at virtually no cost to either of us. Was it possible that if Stephen and I had met at another time in our lives—had he not been involved and had I been a couple of years older—that the Platonism Plato so convolutedly posited may not have existed?

To be clear, I knew then and know now that Stephen isn’t attracted to me. But at the height of emotions, whether it be sadness or gratitude or lust or fear or joy, our perceptions as humans tend to change. And, as discussed before, humans are not simple creatures. We’re ruled by those emotions—even the most unemotional of us, like Stephen. Could it be that under different circumstances, though circumstances that would have still started our relationship as just friends, our friendship might have forged another path on the road?

Possibly, though not probably. Our entire lives would have required revision, from time of birth to college applications to the cars we drove to how much we drank on any particular Sunday night.

One thing is for certain, though Stephen and I haven’t discussed this since it occurred, as he probably doesn’t remember doing it:

I got closer to my friend that night. Nothing came of that silly kiss, as I knew it wouldn’t because neither of us wanted anything more from one another than a friend who could be at Rich’s when the other heartbroken and drunk by 9 PM to tell you they love you and that you’re worth more. And that’s the beauty of what Stephen and I continue to have.

Even in the moments of gentle brushes of hands against thighs, or of fingers locking together in a moment of intensity, or even those times rarer still than platonic love between gay men when you kiss on the mouth, true friendship supersedes and remains palpable and pure and true. Even when the Platonism is called into question and Plato momentarily begins to turn over in his grave, the reality sets back in and you remember exactly what your place is in that person’s life, and theirs in yours … even if you find yourself questioning it from time-to-time.

But that’s the beauty of real platonic loves. They’re insightful, and introspective, and rare like fossils. And just like fossils, just like Thelma and Louise, just like Plato, those loves teach us things we absolutely have to learn.

And if we’re lucky enough to have even one of those sorts of relationships in our entire lives, that’s magic.

Screenshot_20180123-004843-231x300 Like Thelma & Louise