Don’t Fly Away Without Me, Peter Pan, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 27

This is how the story went:
I met someone by accident.
He blew me away …

There are people who believe in something — God, karma, a grand design, the Fates … whatever. They tell tales of Noah and his ark, of messiahs born and unborn, gods and goddesses that hail from mountains and heavens and reign over rivers and underworlds. Whatever they believe, the fact is that they do believe in something; and those believers always say the same thing no matter what faith it is they belong to or identify with: Everything happens for a reason.

I, a person that doesn’t belong to any kind of religion, always have the same response to that statement:

Bull. Fucking. Shit.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I don’t believe children should get cancer; and I don’t believe that innocents should lose their lives to drunk drivers; I don’t believe that people should be raped by vile human garbage; and I don’t believe people who work their entire lives should barely be able to afford to put food in their mouths or roofs over their heads. And of all the senseless, inexplicable bullshit that happens, I certainly don’t believe that good-hearted, caring, loving people should have their hearts broken.

Some things in life just don’t happen for any reason at all. Some things in life just shouldn’t happen.

This is the story I’ve been leading to this entire season, even before I knew I was leading to it. It’s the story of no matter how much you can try to show someone how much you love them, they can for no reason still not love you back.

This is the story of a man named Peter, and the story of how I fell in love with him without even realizing what had happened until it was far too late. This is the story of how he broke my heart — even though it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t love me, and even though he didn’t mean to — in a way it had never been before.

He blew me away …

🦋 🦋 🦋

It was in the darkest of my days
when you took my sorrow
and you took my pain
and buried them away.

It was a Thursday evening in November of 2017 when I first met him, but only a few words had been exchanged. We were at a function and he was dressed to the nines while I was overweight and searching for the words to introduce myself to this dashing man as I sweated out Adderall and vodka. I was in a weird place in my life. Although I should’ve been rejoicing about all the good things that had been happening in my life at the time — I had just become the editor-in-chief of this magazine, I had amazing new friends as well as amazing old friends, and people were starting to get to know who I was as a writer and a member of the community. But not everything was going as great as I would have liked. I had just gotten out of a relationship with a man I thought I was going to someday marry (remember Parker?); I was slowly but surely falling for an asexual guy I knew didn’t love me back (remember Ezra?); my car had just been stolen from my mother’s driveway while I was out of town and I wasn’t sure how I’d ever afford a new one; plus my roommates in my gorgeous Heights townhouse were moving to Nashville in just a few short months and there was no way I could afford the place by myself.

Things were kind of a disaster; and I had no idea that in the months to come I’d go through yet another heartbreak and just shortly after that I would be drugged and raped. The year, on the whole, had been a nightmare with punctuated by patches of bedlam one after the next. Staying positive while also trying to keep my head above the water was proving difficult, but I wanted more than anything to maintain some air of charisma. After all, I was someone people were getting to know while working in the community; and I was known for my sense of humor at the time more than I was for my column or the magazine.

It wasn’t until one night while meeting up with my friend Gwen at Guava Lamp that I really first met Peter, though. I’d known him from the function before and had done my fair share of research (read: social media stalking), but it wasn’t until Gwen introduced us that we really had a conversation. In spite of my thorough stalking, I still knew very little about him then, but it seemed as though everyone in the world knew him. He was a bobbly-headed, lanky fellow out of that suit he’d worn to the function before that was more cute now than he was dapper. But what I found in just a short exchange of conversation was that Peter was quite charming and funny. My first true impression of his was as I sat at Guava and watched him take the stage with great hubris — albeit, drunk — and sing a strained rendition of Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” with a group of other boys I couldn’t name now if I tried while I giggled and sipped down a vodka cranberry at a table nearby.

When I later went to the parking lot to find a friend of mine, I found him laughing and hugging her as I approached. I can’t quite remember if I knew he’d been out there with her, and maybe that’s what I had approached him in the first place. But either way, when we did engage in conversation, he laughed at my dry jokes and complimented my work at the magazine before we spoke very briefly about trying to work together in our respective businesses to help the community thrive. But after only a single lunch meeting and some text conversations, I didn’t see Peter a lot. I’d heard he moved out of state, but I could hardly keep up with what he was doing with everything else that I had going on. Still, I thought about him, although not in any particular kind of way. After all, he was just a boy I had once fawned over as he sang karaoke. Nothing more, nothing less. He would, however, cross my mind as I scrolled through Facebook and saw photos of him out and about. It wasn’t until Gwen and I somehow pulled him in with the gravity of our own friendship after he’d gone that we began speaking on a regular basis. Group texts became a daily exchange between the three of us, and Marco Polos came shortly after when Gwen convinced us both to join the video walkie-talkie app. And on the side, Peter and I drew the map of a nice little friendship of our own. The tiny crush I’d had on him when we’d met didn’t seem to be an issue once Gwen informed me that Peter had had an on-again-off-again relationship. That being the case, that little crush evaporated into a wisp of smoke like a candle being put out after Mass.

What I couldn’t have known then, however, was just how much like a candle that feeling actually was — how soon it would be lit again and the wax would melt in slow, uneven form until is spilled over the plate it rested upon and hardened against the parts of my life trapped beneath it.  

As it turned out, it was just that everyone seemed to know Peter — everyone did know Peter, even my straight friends that weren’t involved in the community. But more importantly, everyone seemed to love Peter, too. He was fun and handsome and had the most beautiful and trusting eyes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those eyes were the first things about him that I fell in love with. Looking at them made you feel surrounded in their color — like you’d suddenly fallen down a well and looked around as you hit the bottom to find you’d landed inside a painting. I still look into those eyes when I feel anxious or unsafe. Even just a picture can do the trick sometimes.

As we became better friends, our conversations were nothing if not a little harsh. Peter was a funny person, too; and what other people may have mistaken for hatefulness was just our back-and-forth banter. It kept us both laughing, even if it at times either of us could get a little carried away. It never ceased to amaze me, however, when Peter could almost read my thoughts and know exactly the right thing to say at the time. He knew when I needed to laugh and he knew when I was about to cry. Even if sometimes our mean-spirited jokes seemed awful to other people, it was evident that we both came from the same school of thought about laughing at things as a coping mechanism. Additionally, I was happy that it was something that I had with him that a lot of other people didn’t get. They got front-facing Peter, a mannequin in a display window. I got three-dimensional Peter — someone I could laugh with, someone I would go on to cry with, and someone I honestly had never expected to get to know all that well.

You buried them away …

🦋 🦋 🦋

I wish I could lay down beside you
when the day is done;
and wake up to your face
against the morning sun.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I was born ill. From the time I came into this world until I was a toddler, I would cry and cry, incapable of being soothed most of the time. In fact, there was only one thing that really did calm me down, as aberrant as it is: Shania Twain. That same woman I’d first heard Peter singing at Guava Lamp the night we’d officially met.

My family listened to a lot of country music and Shania was a big deal in the early 90s. For some inexplicable reason, her voice had a soothing effect on me it likely didn’t have on anyone else in the world. By the time I was of talking age, I could have recited to anyone most of her song lyrics. It’s fair to say that even from the beginning, I was absolute trash. Still, when I was invited to her concert this past year with Peter — our first true outing together save for that one business lunch — who had an extra ticket to the show, I was thrilled. We’d been chatting in that friendly way for months, but we’d never gotten the chance to do anything other than text or send Marco Polo messages to one another. A part of my excitement was just from that: that he’d thought of me as enough of a friend to invite me. The other part was that it was sort of like a childhood dream come true; and the genie in the bottle who had granted it was none other than Peter, a man with whom I’d had only a handful of conversations in-person in my entire life.

I’m not sure if I ever told him this, but that concert was special to me, because it was the first time that Peter for those reasons. Watching him dance like an old man and shout lyrics an octave below Shania at the top of his lungs left me laughing. And even that far into the disaster of my life, I’d needed those laughs. Things weren’t getting better for me, but the moments like that — and many of the others with Peter that came to fruition — made everything seem okay. And I think that might be the thing that I loved about being with him most: he made everything seem like it was going to be okay, even if I’d not shared my worries and woes with him.

Although it seemed to me at the time that Peter might be a difficult person to get to know. He wore a lot of things on his sleeve — what he did, what he loved, why he loved those things; but there were parts of him I could tell even from the beginning that were reserved for only a few people. Something that night told me that I might come to be one of those few people someday soon; and as the next few days during that week passed and we spent even more time together going out in Montrose, that process slowly began.

One thing that I always struggled with was Peter’s popularity. In the gay scene, he was someone people wanted to know, and it was understandable why people wanted to know him. Aside from his looks, his charm, and his zeal, Peter knew a lot of people and ran in circles that one had to work to get into. It was because of that fact that people often took advantage of Peter and his friendship kindness. Even the ones who barely knew him at all weren’t afraid to ask him for favors or to try to worm their way in without giving anything back in the relationship. And that’s always something I worried about when it came to Peter. I was not nearly as successful or financially well-off as he was; and it was my earnest hope that he’d never think I was taking advantage of him. He was someone I really cared about and if that didn’t show at any time when he was doing things for me, it wasn’t because I didn’t want it to. Every single chance I got, I tried to find ways to do things for him, too — even little things to show how much I was growing to care about him. The opposite side of that token was that, the more I realized how people were capable of taking advantage of him, the more defensive and protective of him I got around other people. And when it came to his popularity, it often put me at arm’s length from the people I could tell he genuinely cared about that seemed to only be there to take advantage of that fact.

That’s why going out with Peter got the better of me, and I didn’t quite understand why. I would often get so frustrated and mad at him without any sort of reason, but now I can say that it was just that. I was concerned. Peter — very much like myself — wanted to love people, and he wanted so badly to be loved that he would have done and still would do anything for anyone he cared about. But as I watched him traipse around Montrose with his friends that had come before me, I found that my irritation would spike and leave me unable to even speak to or make eye contact with him. At the time, I wouldn’t have thought of it as jealousy, but the more I dwell on it now — and believe me when I say that I dwell — the more I realize that jealousy was a big part of it. I’d met someone that I really cared about and had befriended him unexpectedly. Seeing him tell jokes with old friends that I didn’t understand was difficult, even for someone like myself that usually had no problem inserting themselves into a situation. But I never wanted to do that with Peter, because I didn’t want him to think I was imposing upon something that didn’t belong to me. So I sat back and watched from the sidelines many times, jealous that it would be a long time before I got to have those moments with him. But more so, I was genuinely afraid of the intentions others had for him. In the short time I’d known him, I’d watched him get hurt and used and had heard a few of the stories. I was letting my inner-mother come out on the defensive, and sometimes that wasn’t necessary. But in truth, I wouldn’t go back and change it. He was my friend, and I would have done it for any other friend the same that I did for him.

As would soon become a tradition of ours, I was staying with him a few days after the Shania Twain concert just because I was a little too fucked up from drinking and doing cocaine to actually drive myself anywhere. I was in the midst of getting over one boy and I wasn’t handling myself well in the months descending from that. On the last night I stayed there — I think it had only been two nights in a row — and when the others we’d been hanging out with had left, Peter shared a story with me about how he’d lost a friendship with my then-new friend, Chance, and how it had affected him, as well as how the loss of the other friends involved had affected him. Their separation would go on for several months to follow, and Chance would only ever just now begin to fully get over what happened. But as Peter — also drunk — told me the story as we sat in his bed, I remember having to do everything in my power now to wrap my arms around him and hold him. His vulnerability was like the liquid that cools into glass — penetrable, thin, and capable of either creating something beautiful or causing harm to someone who gets too close.

That’s the night our friendship really began, as far as I’m concerned; but I think it’s also the night I really started to care for him as something more than a friend. It was the first time I looked to his eyes, fell down the well, and landed in a painting that was — while equally beautiful — one that brought me great melancholy.

But like every man I’ve ever known,
you’ll disappear someday.
So I spend my whole life hiding
my heart away.

🦋 🦋 🦋

Dropped me off at the train station,
put a kiss on top of my head,
and watched me wave.

I started to spend more and more time with Peter as the months went on. Every day was filled with notes to and from him in my phone, three and four day-long visits would take place where we’d bunk up at night and talk and laugh and adventure during the day and well into the aforementioned nights. I trailed in his stride trying to keep up with whatever good time he was having whether I was visiting him out of state or whether we were here in Montrose with his other friends. I’d tag along with him to work functions and watch doe-eyed as he schmoozed with his betters and his lessers, a little turned on by just how sexy it was to see him do his job and to do it so well. He introduced me to people I probably otherwise would have never met, and he spun me into a baby socialite of sorts that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be. I loved my community, don’t get me wrong; but the bar and club scenes weren’t quite my aesthetic anymore, and they would become even less so my scene after being raped in June. I was terrified of them for a while, to be honest. Sometimes that terror comes back up when I least expect it — I could be having a drink in the bar and laughing with friends and reach down for my glass only to remember that someone had once drugged and raped me in a bar just like that before my anxiety would spin out of control and I’d make some excuse to leave. But when I was with Peter in those nocturnal settings, I usually felt okay and could staive off the fear. He liked to take care of people, even if he wasn’t sure that he was doing it. He was a natural-born caretaker, even if the way in which he did it was sometimes adjacent to confusing, Still, he was a calculated person who liked to plan out what he would say and do, and that much was evident when we were together. I think a part of that safety net came from the fact that when we did go out and socialize and drink and dance, he sort of — if not metaphorically — took my by the hand and just led the way. Sure I was trotting along at his heels, but he was pulling me in stride.

On one particular night I’ve written about before just a short three months after being raped, Peter and I had an intimate moment while in bed at a hotel. He and I had been working on some business matters together, and I elected to stay with him there rather than going home so that we could spend more time together before he had to drive back out of town — like I said, this was becoming tradition. That night, we’d both done a little Molly and spent the night dancing at a club before going to an after party hosted by some stranger to me where we rolled our asses off on the couch and everyone else sipped wine out of Olivia Pope-style glasses like classy adults. As the rolls got stronger on the couch, Peter was in no shape to be around functioning adults, and I was already lying on his shoulder ready to pass out with my hand in resting on his thigh.

That was another one of those things I’m not sure had any real reason behind it. Sure, I was tired and my friend was sitting beside me. But I can’t remember exactly what led me to do that. I never really touched people, least of all not Peter. We were great friends who seemed more like frenemies to anyone didn’t really know us. But we weren’t the type to touch one another all that much. But that weekend, he’d been handling our business so well and I’d started to look at him not as Peter my friend, but as Peter this man who was taking care of shit without being asked to do so. Aside from the business, I’d been rather upset with a boy named Mason that night for going on a date with another man and Peter had just swooped in — albeit, with Molly — and took care of me. So we returned to the hotel room and he disrobed to get into bed, I curled up next to him and rested my head on his chest. I wanted to thank him, but I couldn’t find the words; and it seemed as though maybe that was the way to do it. He sat up and put his arm around me and traced circles on my shoulder with his fingers while I ran mine over his skin and listened to a medley of his heartbeat and gentle moans and hisses coming from his mouth. Even if I wasn’t entirely sure what had made me engage so much in touching him, but there’s one thing I did know for certain:

That night was the first time I had let a man put his hands on me in the three months since I’d been raped. I’d had no sexual encounters, no kisses from dates — mind you, I hadn’t had any dates, either — and I’d squirmed at friends who tried to hug me or show me affection. The one time I’d let a man put his hands on me was just a few nights after being raped, when Ezra had listened to me tell the story I’d only just started to piece together and hugged me afterward for what felt like an eternity. No one else.

Maybe that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, but it is for me; and I think it is for any rape survivor who has long-lost their trust in men. That yearning for physical affection doesn’t come back easily, and certainly for most it doesn’t come back after just three short months. But Peter — someone I’d only just shared my rape story with a few nights before he’d come into town — was there with me, and he was there for me; and I wanted that closeness with not just anyone, but with him, even if I’d only realized it just then. There was my new best friend that had slipped into my life by accident lying naked beside me and all I could think about was the fact that he was the only man that I ever wanted to touch me again. He’d swooped in and saved the day for work, cared for me and made me feel like he wanted to be around me, and now he was holding me in his arms as I ran my fingers over the skin of his chest and tummy and felt us both growing erections beneath the sheets. He was literally a prince who had ridden in on a white horse and lent his hand to me on the ground below where I’d fallen. I’d never wanted a prince before that moment; but, at least for that night, I’d gotten mine.

We didn’t make love; and in some ways I regret that, but in others I think it would only make what happened next and what is happening now all the more unbearable. Instead we touched one another, and I found out he was ticklish under his arms and blew a raspberry there to send him flying into the air. I kissed his chest and we intertwined our legs together and I tapped the bottom of one of my feet against the top of his twice: tap-tap. That’s was the calling card of a Molly roll. When it hit your system, and you tapped on someone’s shoulder to see whether or not they were feeling it. Tap-tap, went my foot against his, then the top of his went against the bottom of mine, Tap-tap. And Peter played music, and I think I rolled away from him, and we both fell asleep and woke the next morning far too late for check-out.

As hard as we were rolling, there were a number of factors that played into the fact that we shouldn’t sleep together; though I believe that had either of us pushed just a little bit harder, had my hand grazed over his pubis or had clawed his fingernails just a little bit deeper into my shoulder blades than he had been, we likely would have. And you know what? It probably would have been magical and unforgettable and, again, an event that would’ve made this all the more difficult for me. I wanted him to make love to me that night, though; I won’t lie. He’d had sex with pretty much everyone else that I knew; and while it was nice to be in a place where I was the only person he hadn’t slept with, it was a place that made me feel like a leper — like I wasn’t worthy. I was attractive, and witty, and smart, and funny, and I was driven. But later it would come to seem as though there was something undesirable about me; and to this day I have to stop myself from asking him what that is.

Even still, when we woke the next day, we ran errands together, visited his family together, had drinks together on a rooftop bar, watched a show together, sang karaoke together, and in summation shared one of my favorite days of the last twenty-four years together. It would have been the perfect day if I hadn’t had to have parted ways with him at the end of it. I’d begged him all day just to spend one extra day with me, and for a while I thought me might acquiesce; but his work needed tending to out of state, as did mine, frankly. When he went to leave, I almost didn’t hug him because I was so mad that he had to leave. But he called me back to him, gave me a hug, and planted a peck on my cheek as my eyes began to water. And as soon as I was out of his line of sight, I cried my eyes out and texted him over-and-over again. We even talked the majority of his drive back home.

Even then, I still wanted to be lying back in his arms.

You watched me wave …

Continue to Pt. II

Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 26

Though the evening — at least for Bertha and me — only lasted a few hours, the three of us became quick friends and managed to cover an array of topics that would have given the women of The View a run for their shitty, daytime television money. As if we were college (dropout) roommates catching up after having settled down with Plain Janes and having three kids we couldn’t afford a good Christmas for due to our drinking problems, we covered every topic imaginable. We discussed important topics like the issues of the infighting that plagued our community, and even more important topics like the comfortability of a beard when having your ass eaten. In this beautiful reprieve from my own previously-unquelled anxieties (which were some kind of cocktail made up of not being loved by the man I loved and missing my best friend and whether or not I’d ever get caught up on all the work I was so frighteningly behind on), I was for the first time in weeks able to just … exhale.

With Matt eventually switching to water and Bertha claiming time-after-time that she was on her last drink, we schlepped our way from the Eagle back to JR’s where the flighty, overly-Adderall-ed, sort-of-still-new-to-town bartender bought our first round of drinks. Between the three of us, we each ran into a handful of people we knew — some in common, others not — and still managed to find something to discuss at every turn. More than once the topic of Peter was brought up; although I quickly changed the subject each time. I wasn’t going to bog my newfound friends down with my drunken emotions, nor was I going to divulge a personal situation that was still fresh. And for the time being, the only persons it involved were Peter and I and that’s how it needed to remain. I’d even begun purposely neglecting to share details about our bad and good times with Gwen simply because — in a rather rare moment of maturity on my part — I’d come to realize that putting any of our close friends in the middle of our chaotic friendship hiccup wasn’t fair. If I needed to bitch about something Peter had said or done, what good would it have done me to tell the people we were both close to? They’d been his friends first. And, sure, I had the luxury of spending more time with them than he; but it would be childish to try to momentarily encourage anyone to my side of an argument when we were both in the wrong on nearly each and every account — both too stubborn and emotional to acquiesce to the other’s needs, no matter how similar they may have been.

As it got closer to nine o’clock (mind you, I’d only started drinking just after six), I had already had upwards of half a dozen vodka cranberries, two Fireball concoction shots at the Eagle, and a Rumplemintz shot that some man who was “courting” — and I do use that word in a sense just as loose as the hungry butthole seeking penetration — had bought rounds of for us. Bertha had Ubered herself home because, as she put it, “Talk to me once you’re over thirty-years-old”; and I was well on my way to needing some cocaine to be able to drive later that night. The stranger who had bought the shots of Rumple asked me questions a bit aggressively about the magazine, my column, and my relationship to Matthew. I wasn’t sure whether or not he was under the impression that I was trying to sleep with the pocket gay — which, to be clear, I was not. However, I took note of the change in the intonation of his voice once I’d made that clear, after which he immediately began to share with me some oddities I wasn’t completely clear as to why he felt he needed to share with a complete stranger.

“You know,” he said as we stood next to the bar while Matt was in the restroom for what began to feel like an eternity the longer this man spoke to me. “I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Matt,” he explained.

Uh-huh?” I said with a cluck of my tongue.

“Like … it’s weird. I love him to death … but I also really want to hate-fuck him.”

If the blowback of my head wasn’t enough to give me whiplash, the speed at which I craned down to the bar to slurp up the rest of my drink might have.

Well …” I muttered when I came back up for air. “That is … that is an interesting little fact to share with a complete and total stranger.” The man then laughed, proceeded to apologize and explain that he was drunk, and then gave me an all-too-comfortable hug for someone I’d just met.

Soon enough, my recently-lovelorn friend Chance texted me to let me know he’d be hosting a show at another bar that night with our other BFF and drag queen royal, Ava. Drunk and not quite ready to go home yet, I coerced my last-standing companion and his new boy-toy to Lyft to the other bar with me for a bit. They insisted on driving — likely so one could blow the other in the car before arriving — but I opted to make the best of all the free Lyft rides I’d been collecting for no apparent reason. I wasn’t really in a place in my life where I was ready to mark off the DWI box on my Gay Bingo card; plus the time to the next bar, the time spent there, and the time Lyfting back would hopefully prove long enough to sober myself so that I could drive home later.

I did not sober, in fact.

Who could’ve predicted that?

At the next bar I drank three cosmos and someone bought me a shot of tequila after I gave him a cigarette on the patio and let him put his hand down the back of my pants for what I’m sure could have only been research. Or … I don’t know … reach-around-search. [shrugging emoji]. I’d lost Matt somewhere along the way, although he finally found me (likely by standing on someone else’s shoulders) and alerted me to the fact that he and the JR’s stranger we’re going home to fuck. I applauded this as I drank more and finally found Chance and Ava in the DJ booth. I chatted drunkenly with Ava for a moment, but soon I couldn’t contain my sentiment anymore.

Between Gwen, Peter, Ava, Chance, and myself, we had over the last year become our very own version of the Plastics from Mean Girls. Each of us was — to varying degrees, and myself being the least of which — relatively known in our community and had jobs that weren’t the type just anyone has, as we all worked in some sort of intersection of media and entertainment. We had affectionately dubbed ourselves The Tap-Taps, an inside, Molly joke that sort of just stuck when we’d changed our group chat name to it in our iMessage thread. Rarely were all five of us ever in the same room — and luckily so, as I’ve heard that to be the Seventh Seal of the Apocalypse. Still, this Fucked-Up Fab Five was sort of the perfect bunch. Chance and Peter had been inseparable friends for years only to be torn apart over a boy, and finally to come back together; Chance and Ava worked together several times a week; Ava and Peter had known each other for a while, but had really only gotten close after hosting a show together a little over a year ago; Ava and Gwen had been good pals for years that also worked together semi-regularly; and Gwen and Peter had run in the same circles for years, but were only just now approaching the one year anniversary of their first real hang-out.

And me?

I’d admired Gwen from afar for a while, only for her to sort of demand we become best friends; Gwen introduced me to Peter one night while he was fucked up at Guava, where we began to establish a professional relationship that later turned into friendship; I’d gotten to know Ava through mutual encounters with her alongside both Peter and Gwen, truly only hanging out for the first time the night that I’d met Chance, the same night I’d learned of his then-defunct friendship with Peter. I was the baby of the family — and I mean that near literally. All of these people were upwards of 28; I, however, rung in at a mere 24. They had histories with one another, no matter how sparse or convoluted, that I probably would never have with them. Yet, for the first time in my life, I felt as though I’d found my people. I loved them. Regardless of the task, in that year they’d all proven to be the people who showed up and showed out and helped to make dreams come true, which is the very thing I wanted to do for them, too. And by my third cosmo, I was missing Peter, again. But I was also missing Gwen — who I knew I’d see the next morning. And even with them standing right there, I missed Ava and Chance, too.

It was such a strange feeling. The idea that my friendship with Peter was only being held together by a thread that could at any moment be pulled away frightened me, because it might have meant that I would lose the rest of my family, too.

But with that fear, with that potential for a heartbreak even greater than the sort a man could ever do to me, I was also elated. I mean, for fuck’s sake … how lucky of a fag was I? Not only did I belong to a grown-up clique of cool kids, but on the very night when I stood upon a precipice that could catapult me into losing these deep, magical, meaningful friendships, two people who were nearly strangers to me had been kind and thoughtful enough to sweep down from the sky, scoop me up, and give me the one thing I’d been needing most — and not just since Peter and I had taken a break. It had been the thing I needed since the moment I realized I was in love with him months ago:

A reminder that no matter what happened, there were always going to be people in my life that cared about me.

I kissed Ava on the cheek and hugged Chance goodbye, Lyfting to a Starbucks near the car where I could sit and sober for a while as I flipped through my mental Rolodex of alcohol-induced sentimentalities. Even in my own anxiety-fueled paranoia, I was grateful for Bertha and Matt for being so kind to someone they’d only really just met. And that gratitude served as a reminder that, yeah, sure, things may not have been great for Peter and I right at that moment … but that this too would come to pass. I may not ever fully get over the feelings I was having for him, but I knew — as history showed me with Ezra, and Parker, and every other man before them — that I’d learn to live with it. Was the situation with Peter different? Yeah. Vastly so. But the bottom line was that we were two friends who cared enough about each other and about ourselves to take a breather.

I knew after that moment at the bar — and after seeing that he’d peeped at my Snapchat and realizing he was sending messages in our Tap-Taps group thread — that we would eventually be okay; and my fear that I’d lose my other friends over this, too, finally began to subside. It would take time before we could ever be the people we were to one another, and likely it would never be quite the same. But that’s the great thing about having friends who are just as queer as you are:

They’re all we have.

And no matter how many there might be — a Bertha, an Ava, a Gwen, a Chance, a Matthew, a Peter, and all the others — each relationship is individualistic and unique. Each is — like all other things in life — energized and alive, capable of being damaged when its dropped, but mendable with the proper care. And if it had been anyone else — Parker, Ezra, Taylor, Adam, [insert every other ex or love interest here] — I probably would have something to fear. But the core of my relationship with Peter — as well as with the other three — is the kind of love that only comes from two friends who truly want to be in one another’s lives because of how good the friendship is.

These friends of mine, new and old, they’ve made me who I am today, even in such a short amount of time. They truly are all I have, because I wouldn’t be me if not for the handprints they’ve left on my heart.

🦋 🦋 🦋

Having made it home and in bed before midnight, I woke from a peaceful dream at five AM. It was a dream that had been recurring since September, and maybe one day I’ll share it, too. As of late, however, I’d not had it in several weeks; and I welcomed it back with a smile on my face as I woke.

That smile faded, however, the moment I realized it was still dark outside.

I reached for my phone and found a few messages from Bertha and Matt in a group chat. As it happened, everyone was craving Chicken Minis from Chick-Fil-Hate, Bertha wanted her hungry butthole hate-fucked like Matt, and Matt had been sourly disappointed with the stranger from JR’s, leaving him to go back out and then to the home of another man … and then another.

Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 26

Gay men understand what’s important: clothes, compliments, and cocks.”

— Samantha Jones

🦋 🦋 🦋

Ladies and … gaydies …?

I know I make a lot of statements in this column, many of which you may agree with, many of which you may not. My turn-ons are not necessarily the same as or even similar to your own, my bad sex experiences might be so humiliating that you could never imagine sharing them with someone else if they’d happened to you, and maybe you actually know one of my exes personally and think he’s a good guy. You’re … you know … wrong. But … whatever. It’s fine. Anyway! It’s fine to have differing opinions; it’s what makes the world colorful and beautiful and interesting. But I do think that if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this:

Men. Are fucking. Insane.

But there is some respite from the eternal woes of men — do they love you? Do they not? Are they going to text you? Should you text them? Will they compliment the outfit you spent hours picking out just because you knew you’d be seeing them later? Why didn’t he invite you out with him and his other friends? What does their last text mean? Is he just your friend? Or did that one night you almost slept together and all that other sexual awkwardness mean something else is going on?

Don’t fucking look at me like that.

The fact remains that men are insane and unpredictable and sometimes a little selfish and act without thinking about how their actions are going to affect other people. I should know, and not just because I’ve slept with most of the world’s population of men, but because I too — even if debatably so, at times — am one. And as much as I like to point it out in others, there is not a doubt in my mind that I am just as bad as (if not worse than) all the others.

Surprisingly enough — as it would seem that the majority of my friends that get mentioned in these stories are women — many of my friends are this way, too, as they as well are men. Mind you, 98% of them, like me, are flaming homosexuals. If you lined 9 of us during the winter, one could easily confuse us for a menorah lit for the last night of Hanukkah. But it’s that brazen disregard for what is culturally seen as what it means to be male — from the flapping of fans to the beat of some trashy, pop remix on the dance floor right on down to the ass-eating — that makes gay men special. Now, don’t take that to be a gloss over everyone else in our community; it’s not. People on every end of the LGBTQIA spectrum are just as special. It is our perceived aberrance — our sparkle that stands out to straight, cis-gender people that they’re too irritatingly blinded by to see its beauty — that attracts us all to one another.

Because — at least, in a sense — we’re all that we have. That’s not to say that our straight and cis allies aren’t good to us, that they aren’t advocating for us. But no matter how hard a person advocates for the rights of people who have been culturally and socially stigmatized all throughout history in a way they have not — that is to say, if they don’t share that history or if they haven’t suffered their own plight — being an ally is only nominal. This is not me detracting from the importance of our allies. We’d be nowhere as queer people if there hadn’t been straight and cis people listening to what we need, then going to battle for those things, swords wielded and shields tossed into our arms to protect ourselves. Still, the celebration and commiseration that can only be shared by people who have been through it as well can only be found in our community.

And that, friends, is why there isn’t anything more exciting — at least, not in my opinion — than the ardor that comes from befriending people like you.

🦋 🦋 🦋

Peter and I were on a break from our ever-complicating friendship because, as I mentioned before, men are insane. And as a surprise plot twist I may regret ever admitting, I must confess that the insanity I’m speaking of here is my own.

Yeah. I’m fucking crazy. If you’ve been reading along this far into the series, you’ve probably picked up on that by now. I can’t pin this one on the dude, but more on that another day.

Peter, for those of you who have been following along, was up until this point referred to as Pistachio at my friend Gwen’s insistence. I could only take myself seriously for so long by naming a man after a nut — although, as aforementioned, men are fucking nuts. So now, nineteen columns into this season of Less Than Butterflies, I’ve elected to change his name for the second time. And for those of you who have not been following along, Peter makes a great segue from my former point about friendships into the story to come. He was someone I’d grown incredibly close to over the course of only a short year, but someone whom I’d fallen in love with by accident after a series of intimacies and resultant misfortunes (not to mention tantrums on my part). Our friendship had been struggling in the small span of time since, and eventually I will get around to telling our full story from beginning to end. But not today; not while I’m still trying to understand it completely myself coupled with trying to not be a lunatic.

That said, as our once-wonderful (albeit delightfully hateful) friendship had hit a rocky road — feelings tight, tensions high — we’d found ourselves in a place where we were taking a bit of break from one another. It sucked, considering the holidays were quickly approaching and many of the plans we’d made not only with one another, but with all our other friends, were intersectional. But even just a few days apart had already done us some good. Or, maybe I should say that it had done me some good. I can’t speak for him, but I can only assume it had also served him some much-needed space to clear his head and to get a little freedom from my affections and psychotic reactions he’d never signed up for. But as much good as it was doing me, even just a few days in … I really missed my best friend.

When I felt that melancholy at first — maybe it came when I found a meme I’d wanted to share with him or when I saw his texts in our group chat that involved many of our closest friends — I noticed that the root of missing him didn’t stem from the romantic feelings that I had. Sure, those were still there; but what I was feeling was a seemingly-perennial void that came from not having my friend to annoy and talk to about stupid shit all throughout the day. I tried everything to shake it off. Over the course of three short days, I’d made myself zero in on my work — not a difficult thing to do when that’s all I ever do anyway — begin meditating first thing in the morning and before I went to bed, brushed-up on my long-since-used Italian, and even get back into the habit of exercising every day (kill me; JK — the exercise is going to do that for you). Still, as much as I was happy with the these little additions to my daily schedule, a chunk of the day didn’t pass that I had to remind myself as I was picking up my phone to text him a joke that we were on a break from one another.

So, in an effort to fill some of that empty space, I had resolved to embark upon the only proven method of treatment that had ever worked for me in these situations in the past:

I was going to spend time with some of my other friends. Even better, I was going to have a girls’ night with all of my queer friends that weekend before he and I would check in the following Monday to see where we were at and at which time I would likely apologize for being a psychopath in the hopes that we could at least cordially spend the holidays together with all our friends.

Immediately I put out the call for anyone who wanted to partake in a girls’ night with me, accompanied by my ever-handy “Find Our Sisters” American Horror Story GIF. It was going to be a day for any and everyone who equally needed a day of doing anything we could to relax, enjoy ourselves, and (most importantly) talk about anything that we wanted to so long as the conversation did not revolve around our most recent love interests — good or bad. I had no clear idea of what this would look like, mind you. Maybe we’d start with brunch at Baba Yega, move on to mani-pedis, spend a few hours in the living room of someone’s shitty, Montrose-adjacent apartment watching some mildly-misogynistic romantic comedy, go out drinking as the bars and clubs began to populate, flirt with people we truly had no interest in, and then round it all off by dancing at Rich’s. Or, conversely, maybe the plan would flop and we’d all just end up crying and eating our feelings. I hoped the latter wouldn’t present itself as the more likely option, but knew that after a few glasses of Cabernet on the back patio of Barnaby’s, I’d end up crying and rushing to the bathroom to fix my face before dodging questions about what was wrong with me and smiling stupidly to placate my worried, drunken friends.

Immediately after sending out an open invitation on Facebook, requests to partake came flooding in. The excitement of making this come to life was thrilling me. I wasn’t the only sad, heartbroken queer in Houston; though one could argue that I was the most pathetic of the bunch. Why shouldn’t I stand myself at the helm of a fun, senseless day that could end up making us all feel fantastic or at least alleviate our woes for a few hours? And what more effective method was there? Historically, each and every time I’d had my heart broken, this was the only method that worked.

When I’d made a conscious decision to put a little space between Ezra and I after he’d broken my heart (albeit unintentionally), the only thing that ever made me feel better was the kinship I shared with my friends like Gwen and Chance and, yes, even Peter! Maybe even especially Peter. Definitely so especially Gwen. I’d have died without her by my side those hard months. When I’d cut myself out of the canvas of the world after being raped, I was only resurrected from my internal purgatory because I had those same people surrounding me. When my ex-boyfriend, Parker, and I had broken up — and even when I recently found out he’d just wed only a year after telling me he wasn’t the marrying type — my friends were the only thing that carried me through the shitstorm that ensued within my mind.

So, why shouldn’t I call on the #girlsquad to come and distract me for a while? And why shouldn’t I be there to do the same for them if they were struggling, too? Before I’d even finished rationalizing the logic to myself, friends from grade school expressed their interest in such an event; closer friends like Gwen and Alice came ushering in to show their support; members of my clique from high school popped up offering to bring edible treats — likely cooked in marijuana butter; even a few folks I hardly knew at all began springing up and wishing to join in on the festivities. It appeared as though the weekend was going to prove to be successful for my little heartbroken and/or supportive coven. Only, when I woke on Wednesday from a short nap after staying up all night working, it appeared that #girlsquad time would be happening sooner than I’d expected.

In Houston’s LGBTQIA community, everyone who is someone — and really, even those who aren’t — seems to sort of know everyone after a while. There’s the indoctrination phase, which usually happens after befriending one social gay and being invited into one friend circle before being dragged by the hand into another, creating some big, gay Venn Diagram. Then come the seemingly-vapid rites of passage, like staying up until the sun wakes doing cocaine at some after-party in Midtown or Eado, or shoving ones down a stripper’s jockstrap at Tony’s Corner Pocket, or maybe even witnessing your first patio blowjob at Ripcord. Finally comes the ‘I-met-one-person-at-an-event-and-now-have-a-hundred-friend-requests’ phase. Maybe you’ve just befriended a drag queen with a great deal of clout like the reigning Miss Gay Texas America, Regina Blake-DuBois, after watching her lip sync a number from Wicked at her show, The Broad’s Way. Maybe you bumped rompers with one of the Pride Houston chairpeople while sipping Bellini pitchers at Rosemont. Maybe you’ve attended your first Pride Portraits photoshoot or Montrose Center fundraiser. Or maybe you’ve just spent three-and-a-half minutes arguing with Brenda Rich as to why you had to pay the seven dollar cover at front counter of Rich’s [insert obligatory: “That’ll be seven dollars” here].

The point is that everyone seems to know everyone else. And if one person overhears a rumor about another person that they don’t know, the chances are that they’re separated from one another by only a few degrees; and the person on the receiving end of the rumor will go out of their way to get to know that person. After all … the gays are a nosy people.

So when I awoke from my nap to find a work-related text message from a relatively new acquaintance whom we’ll call Matthew inviting me to meet up with him at JR’s, I jumped on the opportunity. Because, as he put it, “Bertha and I are gonna be on our dumb bitch behavior today if you’re not busy and want to be mildly entertained/driven to drink.”

Naturally, I replied, “Yesgodwhen.”

By the time I’d had time to shower, find an outfit, and fight inner-loop traffic, an hour had passed and the dynamic duo had moved on from JR’s to the Eagle, where I stood on the patio finishing a Marlboro before joining them inside. Before I’d even had time to extinguish the cigarette, a voice from behind me chirped, “Oh, heeeey.” I turned to see Matt poking his head out the old French doors and waving before weaving back inside. When I joined them, Matt and Bertha sat perched at the bar discussing how, just the night before, Matt had been traipsing around the bar flashing a photo of his penis to all the patrons around last call. Bertha — or Bertha Bored — was Matt’s drag queen best friend who was notorious amongst the gays for being one of the most outrageous caricatures I’m sure most any person would ever encounter in their lives. Today, she was out of drag and hanging out as one of the gay boys. Although, in spite of her cis-ness, Bertha still answered to Bertha full-time and seemed to take no issue with feminine pronouns.

Truth be told, I barely knew either of these people. What I did know of them was based solely upon what I’d heard from other people — truly all good things — and the interactions I’d seen them partake in on social media. Patrick was a local bartender and pocket gay that, in spite of his butch presentation, epitomized a few too many gay stereotypes. Bertha, on the other hand, was equally outrageous, although far less so in more quaint settings than she portrayed herself to be while working or on Facebook. That last part, as it happened, seemed to be something we all had in common. While not a single one of us now sipping from tall bar glasses could get away with saying that we weren’t boisterous or over-the-top, it could be easily read from spending time with the three of us that we weren’t actually as slutty or as drunk or as loud as we led other people to believe.

Don’t get me wrong, the three of us were all of those things; but the public personification was far more exasperating than the gay men behind the curtains.

“So what’ve y’all been up to?” I asked as I sipped from a vodka cranberry that Matt had taken the liberty of putting on his tab.

“Well,” Matt began, “I texted this one earlier …” he motioned toward Bertha, “… and told her that I was bored and wanted to do something. But I told her I really didn’t want to be a dumb bitch today, but that it’s really the only thing I’m good at.”

“Right, right,” I agreed with a single nod.

“And then when I was messaging you, I sort of was like, ‘You know, Anthony said that he was wanting to do a girls’ night thing. Why don’t we invite him to hang with us?’.”

“And here we are,” I added.

“Being dumb bitches,” Bertha concluded as we all raised our glasses in cheers to Dumb Bitchery, new and old.

Continue to Pt. II

Gay Sex, Straight Guy

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez Gay Sex Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 25

Here’s the thing about having gay sex with men who say they’re “straight” …

I gasped as he ran his hand ever so gently across the nape of my neck and pulled not me in, but himself into me before he laid his lips upon mine.

… not even just “straight” men; maybe just men

The kisses were long and slow, but not the suffocating kind that makes you wonder when you’re going to be able to come back up for air. The kind you sink into — no — the kind you melt into.

… You know, men who are just a little older than you, men who pay attention to you, men who aren’t only concerned with getting off, but making sure that you get off, too …

He ran his hand down from my neck, but not the entire hand. His palms raised up like the trunk of a car and his fingertips slid down the outside of my shirt and over my underwear just above my penis before they just … stopped.

… These men open doors for you; and they walk close by you in public; and they let you finish a thought without cutting you off mid-sentence …

He pressed just their tips — those tiny zones of flesh just halfway down the fingernails on the opposite side — between the elastic of my briefs and the the skin of my pubis. Then he swayed them from side-to-side, teasing me — making me wonder whether or not he was going to take them off. And as his hand pressed back down firmly over their fabric and the fingertips came out from beneath, he edged his hand down and around what was waiting for him, and brushed his knuckles against the inside of my thigh.

I gasped.

… they are so good with their hands.

He leaned in, hot breath hitting the exposed skin between my shirt and underwear; and as he removed my clothing with the ease of a sea mammal leaping out of the water and diving back inside like a subtle decrescendo, he whispered, “You are absolutely breathtaking.”

I could have come right then and there.


Lovesickness does something to me. As it cracks the shell of my heart before my soul slides into the skillet to be stabbed at and scrambled, it absorbs the heat of the fire that cooks it. Although not always at first, like it seemed to do this time. Usually I have to get through all the crying, eating, drinking, depressive stages of my heartache before I can even look at another man with whom I might want to have sex — even it it’s just sex. I think that’s how I knew my tears brought on by Pistachio breaking my heart weighed a bit more than those before it. I was so crippled by my own hurt that I couldn’t bear to feel that way for long. It was all-consuming. It was as though I was actually afraid for the night to fall because being alone with no one else in the world to suffer through this with was a sort of loneliness I’d never experienced before. But when I’d finally fall asleep and the sun would come up shortly after, I’d be tearful just as my eyes began to open that I didn’t want to get up and be amongst people. I wanted to stay there and be alone until this famished melancholy inside of me had finally gone away.

It didn’t leave, however. I’m not sure it ever will leave. Just when I think I’ve vacated its presence, I’m overwhelmed with a heaviness in my chest and the feeling of someone making a fist around my stomach. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t even enjoy drinking, because it only brings the emotions out stronger. The only thing that seems to be letting me forget, even if just for a short time, is sex.

I know, I know. That is an extremely unhealthy coping mechanism. It’s no better than lines of cocaine — done that — or drinking myself into a coma — that, as well. It’s not really replacing the feeling of loneliness, the one of a broken heart. It’s just replacing them emotional feelings with heightened physical ones that are so overwhelming in the moment that it provides respite, even if just long enough for me to close my eyes during climax.

Just in the week following me finally getting out of bed, I had successfully blown a man in the bar parking lot, had sex with another man in the bed of his pick-up truck behind a gas station, orally serviced a dad in his bathroom while his girlfriend slept in the next room, and gotten out of sleeping with a guy who looked nothing like his profile picture on Grindr by telling him a half-lie about being too devastated to sleep with anyone after I’d recently had my heart broken. As far as sex went, I was sort of killing it, now racking up my grand total of men to 106. It seemed impossible that there was anyone left I hadn’t slept with, although I knew this wasn’t true as most of the annoying, twinkier fellows I could hardly stand speaking to, let alone having sex with. But what I did realize was that the man who would be my 107th sexcapade was much closer than I could have ever imagined. Five houses down from my mother’s, in fact. But no matter how the adage goes, not everything is about location, location, location. Although if the sex is as good as the location, it may have just proved that this man wasn’t just my 107 … he was Lucky Number 107.

His name was Grayson — although I didn’t learn that until later — and goddamn was this man a motherfucking man. He was one of those Texas men that — even as a Texan — I believed only existed in Southern mythology. He stood 6’4” weighing 220 pounds of pure, cut, and tight muscle. Or at least — that’s what I could ascertain from his Grindr profile that I grazed over while staying at my mother’s house for a few nights while her husband was out of town. And almost as if he could feel me staring at the details of his profile, my phone hummed that ribbit-like alert notifying me that the 35-year-old jock had just sent me a message.

“I think you might be my neighbor,” he wrote, followed by, “It says you’re only 300 feet away.” That much was true, and I’d honestly been thinking of going around the neighborhood to see how close I could realistically get to him in an effort to fish out which house the man lived in and, in turn, his identity.

“Seems like it,” I wrote back with a winking emoji. I was going full-Samantha Jones on this guy. If a man of his build was at all interested in pressing his body against mine, I was all for it.

“Well,” he typed out. “Either that or you’re hiding in my pantry … because you look like a goddamn snacc.”

I loved when men called me a snacc. It combined my two favorite things: sex with boys … and junk food.

“You are correct about that,” I told this man who was so far removed from my league that I might as well have been playing softball with a pack of moving lesbians while he was winning the World Series — this baseball analogy will seem more fitting later. “And you are a very attractive man,” I added with an upside-down smiley face.

The banter continued, but we didn’t end up sleeping together that night. In fact, I’m nearly certain that I fell asleep while talking to him, or maybe he had. Either way, another day passed and I didn’t hear from this man. It wasn’t until I was leaving my office in the wee hours of the morning to go home and get some rest — although I knew I’d never be able to sleep, as I’d just taken an Adderall at 10 PM to keep myself awake long enough to get things done for the next workday — when I heard that annoying Grindr notification on my phone.

“You up?” he asked me.

I smirked. I was somewhat impressed by this guy. He had never once asked me to send him nudes, and he hadn’t sent any to me either. He had revealed to me only photos of his face and body — both of which were more than aesthetically pleasing — and he had actively engaged me in conversation that wasn’t laced with propositions for blowjobs or sexual innuendo. Even when I’d asked him what it was he was into, he’d replied with such naive sweetness, “I like going to the gym, catching games, concerts, etc. You?” I probably hadn’t laughed as hard as I did at that message since before things had really gone downhill with Pistachio. And in an effort to not make him feel dumb — which I could tell by his impeccable grammar that he was not — I replied that I too liked concerts, that I hadn’t been to the gym in a while, but needed to go back, and that I enjoyed the theatre and writing. It felt too soon to tell him exactly what I might be writing next, however. This guy, who I only knew by his headline of “Houston Jock”, was, as far as I could tell, actually a nice guy.  And as it turned out, we were, in fact, neighbors — sort of.

He lived five houses down from my mother’s where I often was to see my siblings or to help her with one menial and underappreciated task or another. So as I sped to my mother’s from the office without telling her I’d be spending the night at what was nearly three in the morning, I was certain this guy was going to be one of two things: 1. closeted and inexperienced to a fault, or 2. a total fucking creep. Still, I was horny and had emotions to suppress with sex, and I therefore elected to at least meet the guy.

Having not showered since I’d left to go to the office the morning before, I broke into my mother’s house — which was unlocked for god only knows what reason — ran up the stairs, jumped in the shower, blew out my hair, found an old varsity-style t-shirt that was just a bit too big for me and a pair of nice underwear I’d left there a long time before that really made my ass pop, and then put my hair up into a messy, sexy ponytail. I grabbed beer — which I almost never drink — from the garage refrigerator, downed two, tossed two more into my arm, and ran out to the driveway to have a cigarette before he came over. I even put on cologne — something I don’t normally even do for the men I’m dating.

I let this man know where I was, and he asked me if I could hear a truck running from where I stood. In the silence of the early morn, I could hear it and saw a red pick-up flash its lights a few streets down.

“Are we gonna fuck in your truck?” I asked him — unsure as to why we wouldn’t just go inside his house.

“Well, yeah,” he replied. “Didn’t you say that that was your mother’s house?”

I laughed loud enough so that he probably heard me five houses down.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have sex in there. The second floor is completely vacant. Granted, we probably can’t get away with like … full-on anal because it would be really loud and the bed is creaky.”

“I’m cool with that,” he told me before confessing, “I’m just a little nervous. I’m kind of new to this.”

And there it was! The answer to my question about why we couldn’t just have sex inside his house. I knew even before I asked the question — though I should have been tipped off by the part of his responses that included “watching games” — that I was about to have sex with a man who identified as straight. And if we weren’t going into his house, that meant he was likely also married, or he had children whom he did not wish to wake from their slumber.

“So … you’re not … gay?” I asked him.

He answered back with great haste.

“No.”

Uhhhh-huh.

“Are you married?” I asked him. “Like … I’m not judging and it probably won’t stop me from sleeping with you because as you can see, I’m the kind of THOT that stands in his mother’s driveway in his underwear smoking a cigarette and drinking Blue Moon before he invites a stranger to have sex with him in his little brother’s old bedroom. But I would just like to know exactly what I’m getting myself into.”

He was quick to respond, “I’m going through a divorce. We can talk about it more in a second. Do you have anything to drink?”

I downed the rest of the third Blue Moon and opened the last one that had been in the fridge.

Noooope!” I typed. “Just opened the last beer.”

As he approached the house from a few houses down, I noticed he was carrying a few beers in his hand himself. But that wasn’t all that I noticed. In fact, that was probably the least of what I noticed about him. The man was not only taller than me — a rare gem of a man that is incredibly hard to come by — but he wore the best fitting jeans I’d ever seen in my life and looked like a model for a Cavender’s catalog in his sparkling cowboy boots. His t-shirt was snug around his clearly well-cut body and I immediately began to question whether or not he would see me and run home to find someone far more attractive to have sex with.

But he didn’t. In fact, if there was a way for someone to like … super not do something, that was what he did. He super didn’t run from me. Instead, he reached for my hand, bowed down a little before me, and planted a kiss on the back of it.

“You are somehow even sexier in person.”

I felt my eyes turning into hearts like an emoji and it took everything inside of me not to yelp, “HUBBA! HUBBA!” at the sight of this godlike man. Even for so early in the morning, he smelled so fresh and looked so clean and I was just this sort of still kind of wet from the shower bog monster that only really washed his taint because this man had quite enthusiastically said he’d eat my ass without any hesitation. And by the looks of him — by the way he held the door open for me to my own mother’s house and squeezed my hand just the gentlest bit as he followed me up the dark stairway — he was the kind of guy who was really going to put those straight, pussy-eating skills to the test around my now very-hungry butthole.

He took off his shoes, then took his wallet and cell phone out of his front pocket while I scrambled to the restroom to brush the cigarette ick out of my mouth. When I returned, he was still clothed, but he’d made himself quite comfortable and asked me to sit with him so that we could get to know each other.

“Are you sure we won’t wake anyone up?” he asked as he leaned his head back against an arm pressed against the wooden headboard.

“Ha! No,” I told him. “But what are they gonna do? Ground me? I don’t live here. I’m 24 and hot. Why wouldn’t I be having sex with the even hotter stranger from down the lane?”

He laughed and shared, “Grayson. My name is Grayson.”

I smiled. “Anthony,” I told him.

And from there, he told me a little more about himself — what he did for work, how his divorce had come about, the time his wife almost caught him surfing the now-defunct Craigslists personals to hook-up with a man. As it turned out, the cowboy-country thing wasn’t a charade. He’d grown up in Lubbock — gag me — and had moved here for college when he’d gotten a baseball scholarship to some Baptist university I’d forgotten as soon as he’d said it. A Baptist, it turned out, he was not. A baseball player, on the other hand, he definitely was — and he had the body to prove it.

For an hour we just talked — he’d told me how he’d lived in the area where I’d grown up for a while and how he’d met his wife and how they’d fallen apart. When he asked me how well connected I was in the LGBTQ community, I told him about the magazine and that I had served as the volunteer coordinator for Pride Houston for a couple of years — two things he was shocked to realize. And at the end of it all, he’d asked me if I was comfortable — I wasn’t, but I was trying to give him space as his nervousness was quite palpable — on the other end of the bed. And like a gentleman — albeit, again, one in my mother’s home — he arranged a few pillows for me to lie beside him and rest my head on his chest while his fingers grazed that very same shoulder another man’s had not so long ago.

I put Pistachio out of my mind, looking up to focus on the man before me. It was one thing that I’d already called out his name while having sex with someone else — another story for later — but I certainly would not be distracted by him while I was lying in bed with a man who actually did want to be with me.

We drank some more and talked and touched and tickled. After a while, we both had to pee, and I waltzed toward the bathroom to go first, fearful that when I returned he might be preparing himself to make an escape. But when I exited the bathroom, I had to hold my breath as I saw him coming down the stairs, as well. Only, I noticed immediately that neither of his boots were on, and the pocket that had previously held his wallet and cell phone lay flat against his thigh.

“What’s wrong?” he asked in a whisper, my mother’s room just feet away.

I chuckled nervously and played with a loose strand of my hair while looking down at the ground.

“Nothing, nothing,” I said with another nervous laugh while looking down at the ground. But as I did so, I noticed two other feet step toe-to-toe with my own, then felt a hand gently press my chin up to face the man before me.

He whispered, “I’m not going anywhere,” before leaning down just a tad and planting a kiss on my forehead.

As he peed, I had to smoke my anxiety away through a Marlboro on the porch. I was completely and totally unprepared to have sex with this gorgeous man. And why did he want to have sex with me anyway? Mind you, I was in much better shape than I had been in at any point in time since high school. And as of late, men were trying to scoop me up left-and-right. But they weren’t men — not a man like this, anyway. And even the cute or hot ones held no candles Grayson. Physically and at this point in my life, he is the most attractive man I have ever had sex with. He had a cute face, a hot body-ody, and from what I could tell through those Levi’s, likely a perfect penis.

What is it about men? Like … how is it that sometimes the most gorgeous men in the entire world can turn out to also be the nicest, but the ones who are still kind of cute, but not cuter than you by any stretch of the imagination, feel like they have the right to do as they please with you, toss you aside, and then make you feel like shit about yourself? And don’t get me wrong — the gorgeous men can do that, too. All men can. All people can. But something about men and their baseless superiority over my lifetime — most recently so and maybe even most significantly so with Pistachio — had left me feeling like I was something less than I am. In turn, when a man who was literally created in God’s image decides he wants to bless me with his sex, I’m left wondering why the fuck that could possibly be — suspecting an ulterior motive.

But goddamn … bless me with his sex did he ever.

For nearly the next three hours, Grayson and I fucked like we might never fuck again. His hands left me trembling and his mouth closing around any part of me sent mine flying open into sounds of ecstasy. There was no chance in hell that we were going to be quiet. We were so involved with one another, so rhythmically in sync and so lost in not only our own pleasures, but those of the other that we couldn’t have stopped even if we had woken everyone in my mother’s house and his soon-to-be ex-wife five houses down. And when he said that to me at the beginning, called me breath-taking after my glasses were off and the pudge of my stomach was noticeable even in the darkness, I really could have orgasmed right then and there. He hadn’t called me hot or sexy or cute. He had even bypassed beautiful and gorgeous, passed Go, collected $200 dollars, and spent that money on the sweetest compliment any man has ever given me in my life:

Breathtaking.

And just as certain as I could have ejaculated then, I could have also begun to cry had I not been reveling in the most pure state of absolute rapture I’d ever known. This was a man — again, a man — who didn’t know me, who didn’t know my faults and bad habits, who didn’t know I could be a raging cunt or that I fell in love too easily or that I had just had my heart broken. And while the attraction to the personality is an absolutely integral part of any relationship, it was so validating after having to hear Pistachio tell me that I’m not attractive to hear a man far more attractive than he tell me I was breathtaking.

I didn’t need the validation, mind you. But I’m certainly glad that I got it. Because I think that had I not heard that word come from that man — maybe just some sex angel sent down by God to get me out of my feelings — I might not have found the confidence I needed to get up the next day and dress myself in an adorable outfit with hair and makeup completely done the wedding of two of my dear friends. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to expose my midriff while wearing the shirt I’m wearing right now through the Galleria earlier tonight. I don’t think I would have had the strength to tell Pistachio last night that something he’d said to me was not okay and to give myself the space from him for a few days to decide how I felt about it until he was ready to apologize and until I was ready to accept that apology.

I am a strong fucking person. Willful, determined, talented, and a motherfucking snacc.

Breathtaking, even.

And if this man could see that natural beauty in my messy ponytail, with my glasses off somewhere on the floor, without any makeup, and with all my physical imperfections on display, there were going to be plenty of other men who could do the very same thing. And I pity my friend, the man who broke my heart, for having to miss out on those things and all the other incredibles parts of me this man who called me breathtaking didn’t even know.

When the sex was over, he pulled me in, and he held me. I’d come three times, as had he, and the room smelled of sex and sweat and the sheets were drenched and I knew in the days to come that muscles I didn’t even know I had would ache. He kissed me and he laced his fingers between mine again and I told him that since it was now just minutes before seven AM, he probably should get going — even though a really big part of me wanted to stay in his arms and fall asleep.

“Yeah, I know,” he told me with a smile and another kiss. “Just a few more minutes, though.” He played with my fingers and ran his toes up-and-down across my calves. “You really are gorgeous,” he told me, this time. “I have no idea how you’re single.”

“Well you really are good at having sex with men,” I said with a laugh. “I have no idea how you’re married to a woman–”

Divorcing a woman,” he corrected me with a laugh before kissing my neck and turning me right back on.

I gasped a little. “Are you sure you aren’t gay?” I asked him.

He pulled up some and looked at me.

“No,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’m straight.”

“I don’t know, man,” I told him as I rolled over, cracked the window, and then lit a cigarette. I inhaled. “That was some pretty gay shit we just did.”

It was disappointing to hear, but I didn’t let it bother me. It was his life. If he had to live unhappily in a closet, that was his business. I wasn’t going to burden him with questions and self-doubt. As confusing as it was, I figured he probably was a little gay, but that he just couldn’t be open about that for whatever reason. I had to respect it. That said, I’d happily fuck him six ways to Sunday any other chance I got.

As I led him out of the house again, he pressed me up against the brick wall of the front porch and kissed me again and I could feel myself growing erect, as I could he through his jeans. It was such a powerful kiss — even for it to have just been with a stranger. I knew I’d see this guy again, and certainly I’d fuck him again, but if we never again traversed those five separating houses, I at least had the memory of those four hours we spent together, that electrifying kiss, and the sound of him calling me breathtaking resounding against the walls of my mind.

What. A. Man