Less Than Butterflies

Home Less Than Butterflies

It’s My Party & I’ll Cry If I Want To

Less Than Butterflies Romance His Pants Off Romance Anthony Ramirez Sex

Less Than Butterflies, No. 13

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

—Carrie Bradshaw


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

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

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

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

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

Whomp, whomp, whomp.

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

Asexual.

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

Aromantic.

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

What a fucking shit show.

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

Sigh.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He was cute,” Alice agreed.

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

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

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

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

“I thought you loved him,” Ezra commented.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I swear to God I nearly shat myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m digressing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I felt haunted.

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

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

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

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

Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 4

They say that it happens to every man at some point in his life — that it isn’t uncommon. Maybe you’ve just had a little bit too much to drink that night. It could be that it’s too cold and you have poor circulation as a result. It is possible that the new antidepressants you’ve been taking per your licensed primary care physician — who takes no issue in prescribing you pretty much anything of which you ask — have negatively affected your sex drive.

For me, it was none of those things. I was stone-cold, stupid sober and hadn’t had a drink since the night Ezra had all but said he could never love me (or, at least, that’s how I’d heard it). I was a bit chilly, but I’d warmed up against the body heat of the gorgeous man lying on top of me. And all the pills I was on were ones I’d been taking for years with no such result.

Yet, there I lie, naked from the waist down with this Herculean man from Grindr on top of me. 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 dick. 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.

Sure, they say it happens to everyone … but it had never happened to me. And I couldn’t help but furiously try to imagine why it would happen when I was engaged in sex with a man who was quite literally the hottest man I’d probably ever sleep with.

Well, that is, if I’d been able to get it up.

What the fuck was going on with me?


Over the last three months, I’d been in something of a dry spell. No boyfriends, no Tinder or Grindr (not that I was particularly fond of either). Nothing.

Only, it wasn’t the kind of dry spell you hear your best friend talk about when their boyfriend they’ve been with for five years, have been engaged to for three, but still aren’t married aren’t having sex. It also wasn’t the sort where a person enters their mid-forties, suddenly finding themselves repulsed by what they see in the mirror for no real reason, and gives up on love altogether.

No, no. This was a self-induced dry spell … sort of.

It had been a day like many others, with Hayden and I drinking wine on the patio of Barnaby’s well before dark like good gay men, with plans of walking to Ripcord as soon as we’d polished off another bottle. At the time, I’d still been silently obsessing over Ezra and had just begun to feel comfortable talking about my feelings for him. This, of course, was well before my drunken party in which Ezra had mentioned how disinterested in me he was (I’m paraphrasing).

It was a particularly unpleasant day, as I’d just learned that Ezra had been reading my gay sex column and now knew the ins-and-outs of every sexual experience I’d ever written about since it’s inception into the literary world. These encounters included, but were not limited to, a threesome I’d had with an artist and a drunken bear (not the animal, obviously) from Grindr, my first Grindr hookup in which the bear from the aforementioned threesome took it upon himself to pee on me while I was kneeled down to give him a blowjob, and a gay orgy I’d attended on Coyle St. that ended with me fucking a professor from the University of Houston who claimed to be there as part of an “anthropological study.”

I relayed this information to Hayden with great haste.

“Okay, so here’s what you need to do,” Hayden explained as he yanked a cigarette out of his mouth and blew smoke in my face. “You’re going to have to stop sleeping around.”

“What do you mean I have to stop sleeping around?” I asked him. “You make it sound like I’m the Gay Whore of Babylon.”

“Given the current state of the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were and this were some kind of Revelations-esque nightmare.”

“Great. Thanks,” I sighed. “It’s not like this is about me being slutty. I mean, true, I kind of am. But this is moreso about the fact that it’s kind of my job. I can’t just stop doing that. I need the money.”

“It’s not that I think that you’re slutty. You’re a twenty-three-year-old, for chrissakes. But I’m also one of your best friends, and I know you well enough to know that you’re just doing this sleeping around for —”

“For validation,” I interrupted him with a shrug and another bite of my burger.

Hayden sort of looked around the patio for a moment before saying, “I was going to say ‘for fun.’ But you may actually want to talk to someone about that.” He shook his head and looked up to the ceiling while he puffed his cigarette. Without looking back at me, he went on. “You don’t have to stop writing your column, obviously. That’s your job. But you do have to stop sleeping around so much.”

“Oh, this coming from the man in an open marriage whose Grindr alerts go off like a crazy coupon lady at the cash register who’s just been told she can’t double-up on Nabisco coupons.”

Hayden leered his eyes down at me. “If you don’t stop doing that and if you don’t stop binge-drinking every time you feel like you have something to celebrate, he’s never going to take you seriously or be able to look for a partner in you.”

I didn’t want to acquiesce to what I believed to be Hayden’s ridiculous demands. However, I had to admit—though I never would—that he had a point. It wasn’t all me. I’m not that slutty; and I’m not currently on Grindr; and I don’t troll the bars looking for someone to go home with. A lot more of this particular point rested with Ezra.

You see, Ezra was something of an anomaly in gay culture. While he was very much attracted to men, and while he himself admitted on more than one occasion that he didn’t mind jacking off to gay porn from time-to-time, Ezra was, more or less, asexual.

I know … gay anomaly. Though we’d discussed it more than once, I’d never felt too eager to ask him for many details regarding the situation. My understanding was that he just didn’t have the motivation to actively go out and have sex with men very often and that when he did, it often proved to be rather lackluster. And yet, like how he and I first connected, that didn’t keep him off of Tinder, nor Grindr, or other gay hook-up apps.

Not that it was my place to ever doubt him or how he felt about his sexuality, but I often pondered over whether or not this was a product of Ezra never having had really good sex. One night while at one of Stephen’s parties, my friend Courtney and her girlfriend, Jennifer, had asked me “what the deal was” with Ezra and I, to which I quickly replied that there was no such deal. I wasn’t all that comfortable talking with Courtney and Jennifer about Ezra. It wasn’t as though I believed that they’d do anything to upset him. I just felt that some things weren’t meant to be shared, even amongst friends.

Still, with my lack of responsiveness, Jennifer reeled the conversation toward Ezra’s aversion to sex, but also found it interesting that he enjoyed masturbation.

“Maybe he’s only had lazy boyfriends or bad Grindr hook-ups, but I just don’t think he’s ever had good sex,” Jennifer—a therapist—said after I, again, didn’t respond.

Although I did find it comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in this idea, I stepped away without another word, shying away from the two of them to find Stephen and Leo inside. I understood Courtney and Jennifer’s intrigue; don’t get me wrong. Still, it wasn’t my sexuality to be discussing and I didn’t feel comfortable doing it with those in which he had confided.

Nevertheless, I always knew that if anything ever became of Ezra and I, I’d have to be okay with a minimalistic sex life. Funnily enough, it didn’t take me long to accept that. In fact, Hayden’s no-sex challenge could have served as good practice for what might have someday ended up being the rest of my life.

As it turned out, the practice proved unnecessary when Ezra killed any dream of us ever being a happy, adorable, gay couple that I might have had.

Just a couple of weeks after the death of that dream, my pent-up sexual frustration was nearly pushing my hair follicles out of my skull. I’d abstained from having sex several times over the course of more than three months.

The time had come for me to … well … come.


Continue to part II.

When Boys Keep Secrets, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Romance His Pants Off Romance Anthony Ramirez Sex

Less Than Butterflies, No. 18, Pt. I

I don’t want to say his name. Isn’t that stupid? Like he’s fucking Voldemort or something. Like if I were to spell it out here three times consecutively, he might appear, slap this computer from my lap, and tell me to stop talking so candidly about him to a bunch of people I’ve never even met. But here’s the truth: I could say his name once, I could say it three times, I could shout it from the highest plateau and then spin around in a full 360-degree turn and look for him and he still wouldn’t show up.

I learned that the hard way.

Or maybe he would … show up, that is. Maybe I’d shout it so loudly that he couldn’t ignore it anymore. Maybe he come crawling up that rocky terrain, fingernails peeling back, hands callusing, and skin cracking in the hot, high altitude. And when he finally made it to the top, finding me standing there, alone on a mountaintop, crying tears of blood, arms wrapped around myself because I need to feel the touch of something — anything — maybe he’d finally say something.

But the question remains: do I really want him to say it?

What would be more heartbreaking? I’m genuinely curious. Standing atop that mountain all alone certain he’ll never come? Or having him show up just one more time to tell me the thing I can’t bear to hear?

And why do I care?


When I think back over it all — and I do mean all of it — I catch just glimpses of things I was too busy obsessing about to see before. They weren’t fragments in the peripheral; they were translucent or small or easy to miss. They were boulders painted pink and purple and cotton candy-blue. They were enormous with warnings painted on them like signs on backyard fences cautioning intruders of dogs. They were flashing road signs with arrows pointing me into the right lane from the left so that I wouldn’t crash. Only, I couldn’t see them to get over because I was barreling so quickly toward them that I crashed anyway. I was catapulted into the sky and smacked down on the cement and left alone for dead while the traffic that had been paying attention moseyed on by in the right lane because they’d seen the signs I hadn’t.

But just because I crashed and burned and bled doesn’t mean that the signs weren’t there from the very beginning. But they were little things I wouldn’t have noticed if I weren’t really paying attention — at least at first — like not asking me to watch the dog while he was out of town or suddenly having to check to make sure he had no plans after I’d invited him somewhere when he’d never had any plans before. They came as requests to take him shopping for new clothes because he wasn’t quite sure how to dress himself, and those were followed by him buying new clothes all on his own. They appeared in text messages that were so urgent to him that he’d check his phone minute-after-minute and having to leave events early with no explanation at all other than he had to go.

The signs were there, and I was lying before when I said I didn’t see them. After all, they were traffic lights and cotton candy-colored boulders and skywritings and billboards and mushroom clouds and musical numbers accompanied by choruses and dance ensembles. But I ignored them.

It was easier to ignore them.


There’s something I do every night when I lie down to fall asleep. And it may sound stupid or maybe I’ll just sound stupid for thinking it’s going to sound stupid because maybe lots of other people do it, too. But I get in bed, and I lay my pillows out just the way that I need them so that I won’t wake up with a tremendous pain in my neck. Then I slide between the sheets and I pull a person-sized body pillow close next to me. And I don’t hold it, but I do lie next to it close. And as I toss and turn and think about all the things I have to do for work the next day, as I check my phone obsessively for an advertiser email or a columnist’s newest edition to land, I slowly find my head gliding onto what would be that pillow’s chest if that pillow were a person.

And sometimes I talk to it. Sometimes I swear to God I can hear it asking me why I’m not sleeping or what I’m looking for in my endless emails and text messages. And I look up at it, as if it is a person, and I place my phone down on the other side of it, and I tell it all about my day, and the things I have to do tomorrow, and what my friends are upset about, and what events I have to go to for work that weekend. Then I’ll start apologizing to it … for not being more present, for working too much, for crawling into bed well after two because an article needed editing before the morning’s turn or because finishing a video’s edits would save me the time the next day. And usually as I’m talking to it, I fall asleep.

Just like that.

Talking.

Because if I don’t stop talking I don’t have time to hear the silence and realize that there’s no one there talking back to me.


I am 6’3”, and I weigh 250lbs. I have always struggled with my weight. When I was in high school, I ran seven miles every morning, and I ran seven miles every night. I would eat full meals — anything that I wanted — it was the taste I was after, really. Then, I’d go upstairs to the bathroom, or down the hall depending on where I was, and I’d stick an old toothbrush I kept wrapped in a napkin in my backpack down the back of my throat and I’d vomit into a toilet. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have to do that. If I was down there on my knees and I thought hard enough about the dirty bowl I was sticking my face into and all the crap I’d eaten just moments before, I could sometimes disgust myself into throwing up without ever lifting a finger.

I was in amazing shape.


When I was 17, in an effort to keep my weight under control, I got hooked on Adderall I’d steal from my mother’s prescription bottle, or from my friends’ younger brothers’ and sisters’ bathrooms, or that I’d buy from the college kids I used to do theatre with at the local community college. When I was 19, I was drinking heavily. Wine during the week. Vodka on the weekends. And by 20 I would’ve downing rubbing alcohol if it helped me ignore the fact that I was dating a girl four years my senior who thought it was okay to pressure me into having sex with her by crawling naked on top of me and slipping my hand down the front of her wet underwear and by telling me how bad she wanted to feel me pounding between her legs. At 22 I was still drinking, but when it came to drugs, the only thing that could quell the anxiety I had every time I walked into a room and believed that everyone knew I was gay before I had the chance to tell them was a handful of Klonopin or Xanax — whatever I could get my hands. Then, at 23, I wasn’t working hard enough and I had to forgo the downers and start snorting cocaine off the counter of the bar bathroom or a key in the stall if someone were pissing beside me.

Well … I didn’t have to do anything, I guess.


When I was an infant my father left my mother, and the next memory I have of him is him calling me from Milwaukee where he was visiting his sister, Katherine, promising to take me to some place that had people dressed up like Pikachu and then never showing up. He popped back in around the time I was 8 or 9, and he took me to a Toys “R” Us with his father — who actually turned out not to be his biological father because his mother had had an affair with an undocumented immigrant she had smuggled here from Mexico. He told me I could pick out any one thing, and I remember seeing a Sabrina the Teenage Witch PC game that he paid probably way too much money for, then taking it back to the desktop at his rental house on a bad side of town and playing it while he and the woman who would someday be my stepmother watched Austin Powers in the living room. After that he popped in a few times until I was a teenager, then decided he’d be a more active and involved parent. I spent some weekends with him, and even a summer or two, and when he and my stepmother sat me down to tell me she was pregnant both the first and second time (with my brother Taylor and my sister Emma), Melissa looked at me — I think we were at an Olive Garden both times — and said, “We have something to tell you,” and without catching her gaze I muttered, “You’re pregnant.” Both times.

She had no idea how I’d known that, and honestly neither did I.


The first time I had sexual contact with a man as an adult was after rehearsal for my first TV show, when I’d downloaded an app and had hoped that I could just get the process over with so that my nerves about sleeping with someone of the same sex would settle. I’d had sex with many women — too many women, if you ask me — but somehow every time I’d prepared myself to see it through with a man, I’d lost my spine. So after drinking a shit ton of cheap beer I had in my car at 18-years-old, I drove not far from my house and met a nice, slightly-older, Black man whose wife was working the night shift in an emergency room and cautioned me to be quiet because he had two sleeping children upstairs. He sat me down on the couch and made me watch half an episode of Family Feud that was in syndication with him before getting down on his knees, unzipping my pants, asking me why I wasn’t wearing any underwear, and giving me what was probably the most amazing blowjob I’d ever had in my life. He even swallowed and asked me if he could take me into he and his wife’s bedroom so that he could fuck me.

I ran from his house and cried with shame the entire drive home.


When I was seven-years-old, a boy named Blake moved to my neighborhood from Huntsville. He didn’t talk to anyone and he was the second new kid in our class that year after another boy named Aidan whom I’d one day grow up and name a character in my third book after. Will sat not far from me, and–don’t ask me why–he’d finally talked to me a bit overzealously and told me where he lived. When we discovered it was only a block from my own house, he invited me over that afternoon and I remember my first pang of anxiety because seven-year-old me looked at seven-year-old Will and knew that I was feeling something inside of me that the other boys were feeling for girls at that age. So, that afternoon, I got on an electric scooter my stepfather had bought my brother and I for Christmas the previous year, and I drove it around the block toward his house. As I stared at the strip of paper that he’d written his new address on and tried comparing it to the new builds on that side of my neighborhood, I hit something in the street in front of me, lost my balance, and flew off that scooter before landing in a driveway. A kind man came down the drive and extended a hand to me while simultaneously picking up the scooter from beside me.

All that man said to me was, “I’m Will’s dad,” and then, “And you must be Anthony.”


The summer before ninth grade, my mother had already found gay porn on my laptop and I was living in fear of what happened if I’d pursued these urges any further. But she had just coupled with a man who would later be her third husband and we were moving from my hometown of Spring, TX, up to the Kingwood to be nearer to her sister and her then-husband. One night while my mother was working, an old friend I’d once played baseball with had come over to help me finishing packing while she was unable to. Instead of packing the house, we drank a bunch of liquor that we’d found in the freezer, watched porn on our separate laptops and jacked off on opposite ends of the couch, and then raced down to my apartment complex’s pool and went skinny dipping together. I was so nervous about another person — even at 14-years-old seeing me naked, but this old friend of mine held my hand and smiled at me and once even kissed me before we grabbed our clothes and ran through the dark apartment complex naked together toward my flat. When we arrived back, I went to the shower to wash the chlorine off of me and came back to find him going through his mother’s phone which he had borrowed for the night, where he discovered a text message argument between his parents about the affair his mother was having after having lost a great sum of weight. For the rest of the night, as I packed a little here and there, my friend read those text messages over-and-over again then asked me if I wanted to go to bed. We crawled into my mother’s king-sized bed naked, and he asked me to masturbate, to which I obliged, and he did right beside me over the comforter. He asked me if he could taste my ejaculate, but I instead pulled the blanket over me and pretended to be asleep. About a half hour later, he was masturbating again as fourteen-year-old boys seem to do at a constant rate, and he reached one hand out to touch me, and I let him because I wanted him to. I touched him back, and we masturbated together again-and-again for hours that night, slowly getting closer to each other, slowly letting our hands navigate one another just a little bit more, and finally wearing each other out. When we were done and the sun was beginning to come up through the window blinds, my friend cried about the end of his parent’s marriage and I held him and let him kiss me and kissed him back.

My mother was so angry the next morning when she realized the house hadn’t finished being packed.


A few months after I’d broken up with the girl who had been molesting me, I was off in Brenham over Father’s Day weekend at the wedding of a coworker who had been known for getting around the office, and the city, and probably most headboards throughout the United States. I commended her for that. That weekend, Alice joined me and we were to stay in a crappy hotel down the hall from my new friend Rita and her husband, Jason. Rita had cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus and the only wit I’ve ever encountered in this world sharper than my own. We drank before the wedding, and then we drank through the wedding, and then at the reception we waited anxiously for the toasts to be over so we could drink our goddamn champagne before going out on the patio to smoke cigarettes and talk shit about the groom. My friend Georgia showed me around the historic and boisterous hotel the reception had been held at with its limited number of rooms where the wedding party was staying. A podium carved in the shape of an eagle sat in she and her husband’s room, and atop it there was an open bible with a highlighted quote about man not lying with man as he would a woman. I spat on it, then walked toward the bathroom to find a clawfoot tub that I sat in for several minutes before Georgia told me we needed to go back down to the reception as she’d only come up to grab a fresh pack of cigarettes. Downstairs, I stole a bunch of flowers and then Rita, Jason, Alice, and I went back to our less-elegant hotel and sat on the outdoor stairs smoking and drinking vodka and crying over stories of how Rita had survived 10 brain surgeries in one year. The next morning, Alice and I woke up as hungover as we’d ever been, and then we drove down to Magnolia so that I could have brunch with my father, his other two children, and my stepmother for Father’s Day. Alice left me there where I’d parked my car, and I enjoyed brunch with them not having showered that morning, wearing an old Wicked t-shirt, donning thick-rimmed black sunglasses, and probably smelling like the vodka that was pouring out of my skin. Afterwards, we went to visit Melissa’s parents and I had to leave to be at work early the next day. I asked my father not to forget to pay the back child support he’d been giving me directly every month and he said he would on his next payday before I rolled out of the sketchy neighborhood in my old Kia Rio Cinco and back home.

It was June of 2014, and my father never answered a single text message or phone call after that. I haven’t seen him since.


I stopped running about a year out of high school when I woke up in the middle of the night unable to move. I cried out for my grandmother, whom I lived with at the time, but she didn’t come. For hours I had to lay there in pain and unable to move until the next morning when someone found me and took me to the doctor, where a few x-ray techs carelessly flopped me onto an x-ray table and shouted demands atme as if I were mobile. The doctor reviewed the films and he explained to me that I was born with a condition called spina bifida, and then went on to lecture me about the three different forms it appeared in. The most mild form, spina bifida oculta, was something that I had been living with all my life. Spina bifida literally translates in Latin to a spine split, and is usually characterized in its more severe forms by the spine and spinal cord not forming properly before birth, sometimes creating a sac full of fluid in lieu of the closing of the spine. In my case, it simply meant that a couple of my vertebrae were malformed. In most cases, spina bifida occulta is asymptomatic and most who have it live their entire lives without ever knowing. However, in more severe cases such as my own, symptoms appear in the form of extreme back pain and foot deformity, as well as irregularities with urination. As it turned out, the high-impact activity of running 14-miles every day for three years of my life had made the condition worse, and I was instructed to never run again for sport, especially not on cement due to the fact that it could further damage my spine. My doctor encouraged me to utilize an elliptical and to strengthen my core muscles so that I wouldn’t use my back so strenuously when doing every day activities. I gained 60 pounds and only recently began to once again approach the weight I was in high school, still with another 15 pounds or so to go before getting there.

But even on the best drugs, you hit a plateau in your weight loss at some point.


Sometimes when I’m lying with the body pillow and pretending it’s a person, I imagine a specific person lying there with me. Sometimes it’s Ezra and I imagine that he’s doing what he normally does when I’m talking to him — listening, analyzing, straying. Recently I’d gotten into the habit of thinking it might be Mason; but when I think of Mason I can only ever imagine how fucking intense my sexual feelings are for him and often end up masturbating and then crying over how badly things went the last time we hung out together. Before, when I would pretend it was Ezra, it was never about sex. I felt a closeness to him in our friendship that just made him an easy person to pretend to be talking to when he really wasn’t a person at all but a body pillow. It also seemed like something he wouldn’t judge me for doing if he ever found out about it. After the first time I held his hand back on my birthday, I would sometimes slide one arm under the pillow and one arm over and pretend it was his I was holding, and again not even entirely because I wanted anything particularly romantic from him — especially not after what he did to me on my birthday. More so, I wanted to feel that closeness just a bit stronger, feel like someone was there. For a while being Ezra’s friend was nice because I was one of the very few that he had in the city and certainly the only one he really ever spent any time with. But lately, as I begin to grow suspicious that he might be keeping something from me, I feel foolish doing this — talking to him when he isn’t there — holding my own hand — falling asleep on top of the chest of the body pillow and dozing off into a dream state where he may show up, as well. I should’ve felt silly doing it from the beginning, but it was a mechanism of comforting myself through a long and belabored attempt to keep myself sane while suffering the lows of my manic depression for months at a time. Now, when I find myself beginning to do this, I have to go back to one of the men I have been intimate with before on any level because at least I don’t feel stupid — at least it’s not something I’m concocting out of desire, but rather something I’m doing because it’s already happened once before. The closest I’ve ever come to really cuddling with Ezra was the time we held hands for just a few seconds and after I’d been raped and he’d stayed with me in my hotel before Pride and let me lay lightly against him in our hotel room bed. And while the men I force myself to imagine in his place never provide me the same comfort, I do so in an effort to not get lost in romanticizing something that will never be and getting hung up on him again like I did for so long before. Because if he is hiding something, I think maybe it’ll hurt less when I inevitably find out if my imagination has gone to such extremes.

Even if only from sitting on opposite ends of a very long couch, I miss being comfortable with him.


When I was finally out to my friends and living in the Woodlands, I realized that I had fallen in love with Blake and that I’d had these feelings for him since the time that we were kids. The girl I’d been dating who shoved my hand down her underwear to try to arouse me had never liked him, because we were very tactile best friends and she was jealous of how he’d stand behind me and wrap his arms around me while I leaned back into him. I still can’t help but think to this day that Blake was — at least subconsciously — a little bit in love with me too. We were the only two people in each other’s lives that had been consistent with one another now for fifteen years, and when we were together there was no shame or embarrassment. We were just the two of us. We could lie in bed holding each other, or holding hands, or exchanging gentle kisses on shoulders while lying beneath the sheets in just our underwear. We spent Christmas morning together a few times, and I’d get up and cook for him and he’d open presents and I’d get so lost in thinking how lovely it would be for us to spend the rest our lives that way. Only, by the time I’d come to realize what these feelings were, he’d become engaged to a woman I wanted to hate but couldn’t and their wedding is just a few months down the road now. Still, loving Blake was one of the most joyous and heartbreaking forays of my life. I’d cry when he’d leave me, unsure as to when I’d see him again, and he’d embrace me and hold me there for as long as he could before I’d make him let me go. The last time I saw him while driving through Huntsville, he sat me in a recliner in his living room and sat himself at the piano against the wall so that he could play me a few songs from a recital he’d had a few months before that I’d been unable to make it to because I’d gotten a flat along the way. The worst thing about it was that for someone who began playing so late in life, he was actually really quite good, which made me a bit jealous. I remember looking at him and remembering that even seventeen years later, I was still in love with him, and that every little thing he did even just a tiny bit well was like moving mountains to me. He couldn’t possibly not impress me. So when he was done, I pushed him over a tad on the piano bench and went to sit down beside him, my skin sprouting goosebumps the moment our shoulders touched. Then I touched the keys of the piano and began to play him Adele’s Someone Like You, and when I sang it to him while I played, looking him in the eyes, and trying not to let him take my breath away, I meant every single word of it.

He asked me to be the best man at his wedding.


While officiating a wedding for a lesbian couple that I’d been friendly with for a while, I’d been in Galveston with Hope, Derek, Derrick, and Alice and had been drinking since about 10 o’clock the night before without any sleep. The brides were running late and we were stranded on the hot beach with nothing to do but drink more when I received a mysterious Facebook message from a face I recognized but had never seen in person before. The person messaging me looked about my age and asked me if I was Marcus Ramirez’s son, to which I explained that I was but wanted to know why he was asking. When he replied to tell me that he believed himself to be my older brother, I nearly had a meltdown right there on the beach before noon. I cried for hours and realized there was no arguing about it — this young man had my father’s face and his story was too accurate to have been falsified. He was my brother. Later after a few weeks, Jacob — that was his name — and I finally met at Barnaby’s for dinner and exchanged stories of our childhood, to the point where I learned that we grew up on different sides of the same highway intersection and may even have gone to school together if not for the fact that that intersection divided the school districts. He was a year older than me and did quite well for himself and was only trying to get to know himself better. He met my friends and they all loved him and he and I began a nice relationship, albeit one that was often punctuated by great lengths of time. I was happy to have had him find me, but my rage for my father swelled inside of me to the point where I let his wife know about this secret child she’d never heard of and cursed my father in a lengthy, angry, and drunken text message for keeping him from me my entire life.

As it turned out, my mother knew about Jacob the entire time.


Speaking of my mother, she and I grew up more like siblings than we did mother and child and to this day she has trouble reconciling that within herself. I moved out when I was 17 and our relationship was certainly better apart than it had been under the same roof. As a child and teenager after she and her second husband split, my mother would disappear to work nights at the hospital and leave me with my two younger siblings to take care of until she returned at God only knows when. She met a man she remains married to to this day, and they now have three more children. But back then I’d stay up watching old DVD box sets of Grey’s Anatomy in a house she’d rented in Klein waiting for her to return. She’d never answer her phone or text messages during this time, and was often out with that man who I was told was doing a lot of Molly back then — though, who am I to judge? — then moved us in with him shortly after. My siblings and I often slept two and three to a bed. My brother Kyle, who is three years my junior, and I shared a bed until we were both teenagers in high school. When there was a man in my mother’s life, there was little room for her children that came before that man; and when there wasn’t a man, there wasn’t time for us because she was out looking for someone to fulfill her. I often worry that I might turn out just like her — constantly waiting to be loved by someone. But the difference is that I don’t have children to shirk off my responsibilities onto, and I don’t have my nonexistent eldest cook meals for them, and walk four miles to and from the bus stop because she didn’t have the time to call the school district everytime we moved — 15 times over the course of four years — and let them know we’d relocated so that I could board a nearer bus. I wouldn’t make my children clean the floors and kitchen and bathrooms that were already spotless until the early hours of the morning, then wake them to go to school shortly there after, having neglected to let them do their homework — nearly failing — because she was obsessed with constantly reorganizing her house because she was taking too much Adderall. I remember being in ninth grade and crawling into bed at 4 in the morning after scrubbing the floors on my knees and taking my socks off my feet for the first time because my stepfather wouldn’t let us walk around the house without them on and thinking how nice it felt to just be off of them, even if I had to be up for school in two and a half short hours. I remember her having a child when I was eighteen, whom I cared for because she was depressed that her husband — who has since come back — left her, then impregnated her again, stayed away, impregnated her again, and finally stuck around. I remember staying home from school one day for no reason in particular and looking for her to ask where she wanted me to put her laundry I’d been doing only to find her passed out in a puddle of her own blood on the bathroom floor where she’d just had a miscarriage.

I want to be a parent someday. But I think I might be too fucked up to be one.


When I found out my grandmother was in renal failure I was spending time with my roommate and her straight best friend that I had a massive crush on. I was high as a kite and we were watching stolen cable soccer in his living room. I stepped out onto the balcony to smoke a cigarette with my roommate and answered my phone and flew into a panic. My friend Max was there, too, and she immediately drove me to the hospital to find my grandmother — the person I was closest to in the world. She and I worked for the same medical practice she’d gotten me a job at to put myself through college, and as her condition worsened, I took on the task of working forty hours of my job per week, plus an additional forty of hers so that she could remain on the payroll and wouldn’t lose her insurance. The weekend that she died, my mother had gone out of town camping with her husband, and I’d stayed at my mother’s house where my grandmother was living at the time to watch the three younger kids and to make sure my grandmother was okay. We watched Sandra Bullock movies and ate Popeyes and laughed and for the first time got to spend time together without thinking about the fact that she had one of the rarest kidney diseases known to man. I took a phone call on the back porch — much like I had the day I found out she was sick a year before — and she told me she was going to take a nap. The children wanted to lie down with her, to which I objected so that she could rest and wake to do her dialysis a few hours later. But my grandmother obliged and said they could lay with her, which gave me time to start cleaning my mother’s house, which was a total disaster. A few hours went by and my aunt had stopped in to say hi. We could hear my grandmother snoring from the other room and the kids were now up from the nap. When my aunt left, I went to wake my grandmother for her dialysis, but when I turned on the lights and called her name, she didn’t wake. I ran to her side of the bed, her breaths short, sparse, and shallow. I immediately called my aunt back over, then 911, and began doing chest compressions on her until my aunt returned a moment later followed by the ambulance. She was put into a medically induced coma at the hospital from which she would never wake. I didn’t leave the hospital for those four days while we waited for the doctor to let us know what was to happen next. But because her brain had been without oxygen for so long, she was pronounced legally brain dead and had to be taken off life support. I didn’t shower or sleep over those four days, and I probably wouldn’t have eaten either if Alice hadn’t showed up every day and forced me to do so. Then, when she died, my life suddenly looked different. I wasn’t the same person anymore. No one that knew her was. She swore up and down that no one would come to her funeral, but the church was so packed with people — well over 200 — that strangers I’d never met were crammed into the back for what turned into standing room only. And as much as I loved her and as important to me as she was, I’ll never forget the thought that I had when the paramedics asked me to leave the room that I’ve never confessed to anyone:

If she dies, can I finally come out of the closet?


Continue to Pt. II 

Tricks and Treats, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why hadn’t I been invited?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return to Part I here.