Less Than Butterflies, No. 18, Pt. II
These are my secrets.
They aren’t all necessarily good ones, and many of them may not be as secret as I’d like to think. But there they are.
I spent my life with most of these, and I spent most of that time in a closet. So, when I say that it would take an incredibly skilled liar to keep a secret from me, I mean it. What’s the old saying? You can’t bullshit a bullshitter?
Here’s one more:
For Christmas I bought Ezra and I two tickets to see Anastasia on Broadway, and thereafter purchased our plane tickets (he paid for his own), tickets to Mean Girls for his birthday, and Wicked because we both love it so much. I was so excited for the trip that was supposed to take place the first week of June, but when that rolled around I was so overwhelmed by Pride work, work work, and depression that I asked if we could move it back to July. The tickets were all exchangeable, and Ezra was a perfect, understanding friend about the entire thing. But that was the first time I saw one of those aforementioned signs — the day I asked him if we could delay the trip until after Pride.
In the time that followed, my work load grew much larger than ever, I was drugged and raped, and my suspicions only grew more and more. On several occasions we’ve gotten together to rework our plans, to pick out AirBNBs, but nothing has ever come to fruition. I still have two unused plane ticket credits that have to be used before the year’s end. From time-to-time, I’ll say to Ezra, “Let’s use this time to get our trip details in order” and he’ll always agree, but then we’ll get together and smoke weed or drink wine and forget all about it. And that makes me incredibly sad, because I really want to make it happen. I really need that vacation. And he was the person I wanted it with.
But when he sent me a message this week asking if we could make the trip happen Labor Day weekend, my insides cringed a bit. We’d just spent a weekend together in Dallas for a convention and all that time I had to remember that Ezra and I were only friends and would only ever be friends. Sure, Ezra did and said a few things that struck me as odd while we were away, but because I’m not sure what to make of them, I won’t analyze them here. Still, the time alone with him was nice. We were able to talk about the magazine, he pointed out to me that all I ever do is work, we drank some, we ate a lot, we caught up with some of my friends that live in the area, and we slept side-by-side in a king-sized bed at a Holiday Inn. He went to sleep much earlier than I, and as he laid there and I chatted on Marco Polo with my friends Gwen and Sam, I caught myself staring at him a few times, longing again just to hold his hand and be close to him.
I’d convinced myself up until that trip that a little space between us over the last few months — as opposed to the back-to-back weekends we were spending together for a very long time — had been good for me. I’d met someone new, I’d begun to get over him, and I felt confident that for the first time I really could just be his friend and enjoy our time together as such. But as I watched him check his phone, as I caught sight of the sheepish little grin that crossed his face when he didn’t know I was watching, when he’d say certain things that were deliberately glib, but that had to be said for one reason or another, all of those signs I’d been pretending I hadn’t been seeing were right there in front of me, screaming at me to get a clue.
Maybe it was just the paranoia of a boy who had had his heart broken by the man he is spending his weekend with and had grown suspicious of, but I could have sworn then and there and still could here and now that there’s someone in Ezra’s life that he isn’t telling me about. And for what it’s worth and if that is the case and I’m not just being a basketcase from the lack of sleep — hell it’s 5:30 AM now and I’ve been up writing this since three — I’m glad he isn’t telling me. Part of me hopes that he’s reading this right now so that he knows that if that is the case he should continue to not tell me. Because I’m not there yet. Just the thought of him maybe having a date with some pretentious twink from Grindr on my birthday spiraled me into a two-week depression. And just the thought of that now is still enough to strike me with silence. Max asked me about it just last evening and I was unable to communicate anything regarding it. But there as I watched him sleep in the bed while I drank a bottle of Cabernet that Sam had gifted me, I felt something was afoot.
I was no fool. I was familiar with that elated grin, the way he checked his phone again-and-again while awaiting a new message. I’d smiled like that because of him once upon a time, checked my messages with that exact same urgency. I knew he had a secret, that there was something he was keeping from me to protect my feelings. Or maybe it wasn’t me or my feelings at all. Maybe he just didn’t want to be made to feel like shit the way he had the last time he’d hurt me. Whatever the reason behind it may have been, I was positive there was someone else in his life. Someone I could never be to him.
And that last part particularly sucks. Because, when Ezra told me that he wasn’t in love with me after I publicly humiliated myself telling him in what I denied to be but actually turned out to be a grand gesture, he’d said this:
Here was this wonderfully intense and engaging guy who had brought change and self-enlightenment crashing down on my head in the only way either of us could have managed it. He was wildly successful, charming, witty, genuinely funny, and every other thing you’re normally forced to lie about in your Tinder bio to get people to swipe right before the inevitable non-conversation.
So where were my goddamn butterflies?!
I felt betrayed by every musical and romance I’d ever seen, betrayed to my very core – which both of those things had played a tremendous role in forming! What was wrong with me? I re-lived every phase of being young and not knowing why I felt (or didn’t feel) the things I was feeling (not feeling?) all over again in rapid succession.
Then, through an errant facebook post by a recent acquaintance, I was alerted to the full meaning of the A in LGBTQIA+: Asexual(/Aromantic). After doing some cursory research I realized this explained how I was feeling to a tee, then proceeded to experience the relief of being able to identify with a minority sexuality all over again as well. It was a roller coaster, to say the least, but one I’m always glad to ride again.
I know it’s probably no real solace to you and you’ll be catching crap for the rest of your life (mostly from yourself, probably) for somehow managing to turn someone away from sex completely, but it has opened the door for me to finally be able to explore and better understand myself as a person after 20+ years of being locked out of my own heart. And that really is incredible. You are incredible.
What sucks about it wouldn’t be finding out that there was someone else. And it’s not because I don’t want him to be happy. I do. I always have. I always will. What’s difficult about it would be knowing that I’m the person who allegedly brought him to this revelation of the fact that he isn’t capable of having romantic feelings for another person only for someone else to bring those about.
It takes me back to every single one of those secrets. From my mother who chased after men because her children weren’t enough, to my father who abandoned me over-and-over again and had a separate family because I wasn’t enough, to my first love being engaged to a woman because I wasn’t enough, to crying after my first sexual encounter with a man because I wasn’t enough and every other thing in between. All my life I’ve been spun out into disappointment because someone made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. And to think that there might be someone who is enough for Ezra, who gives him everything he needs and more after having heard all that above … it would be a heartbreak I can’t even fully wrap my head around.
It was one thing when Parker told me he wasn’t the type to commit. It was one thing when I had to stop sleeping with Dylan because he voted for Donald Trump. It was one thing when Blake got engaged because he wasn’t gay (or at least he wasn’t out). It was one thing when I broke up with Adam because I couldn’t be with someone just because they fetishized my body type.
Ezra was always different. So much about me changed over the course of knowing him — and not because I was making an effort to change it. It just happened. I lost a ton of weight; I started working harder; I stopped sleeping around; I became less obsessive and learned to relax and lean into things as they were.
I grew up. I grew up a lot. And while I didn’t do any of those things for him, they did happen because I knew him and because I accidentally fell in love with him.
Ezra — even at his worst and when he’s broken my spirit without meaning to — always seemed so right for me. He was the one thing in my life that didn’t put me under pressure and that I could just relax around and enjoy myself. So, now, even when I think about trips to New York, I get nervous thinking about it. Because as much as I want to go (and here’s the last secret finally), I’m afraid that my neurosis about whether or not he’s keeping something from me will prevent me from being in the moment and having a good time. And, yeah. We’ll still go. And I’ll still smile stupidly and pretend that I don’t know anything is going on. But I’m certain now that it won’t be quite the experience I had in mind. Still, like I said, if he is keeping something from me, it’s better to remain kept. At least for now.
Because after a year of being rejected, being raped, being overworked, being humiliated in front of my peers, peeing on myself by accident on a bad first date, falling in love and having my heart broken, and spiraling in and out of depression and then mania and then depression again — and maybe that’s it too … maybe I’m just in a manic phase — I’m not sure I can deal with one more thing right this second. Do I think I would do anything rash or irrational? No. I’m medicated so that I won’t do those things. But do I know how I’ll respond? Again, no. And I’m a little worried at how self-destructive those reactions might be internally.
I’m not perfect. And I’m obviously not the one for Ezra. But I’m pretty damn great. Sure, I lose keys, and have to rearrange plans, and I’m chronically late, and I spend money like an NFL player. But I’m also kind, and true, and loyal, and loving. And I would spin the world backward on its axis if it would make the person I loved happy.
God, I can’t wait to find the man who would do that for me. And God knows I can’t wait to have something different to write about. But for now, this is just another secret that I’ll keep. And I hope that if there is a secret being kept, or just information that’s being omitted for no reason in particular, that it’ll continue to be kept.
I’m just not ready. And I’m afraid that if I say these things to him — that if he were to really see how much these things eat up at me, at least when I allow them to — that it’d be more than he’d be willing to put up with. Not that I’d ever ask him to put up with them. I don’t bring them up when we’re together and I wouldn’t because I don’t like to talk about things with people. Writing is easier. It helps. But it’s not just that I worry that he wouldn’t be able to put up with these things.
I worry that he might hate me.
And I don’t want him to hate me, because even if we’ll only ever just be friends, I still love him. And that’s the truly sick part: that I’ve already lost so many important people from my life because I loved them too much and they couldn’t deal. And that’s honestly one of the places in my life that I’ve been most different with Ezra unlike the other men and friends I’ve had is that, at least to his face, I’ve managed to remain relatively cool about my disappointment in the way things turned out. With other men, I’d get drunk and cry into voicemails or send hateful texts; I’d beg them to love me back or scorn them the moment they’d met someone else. But not with Ezra. The extent to which I’ve lost control of myself lies here within these columns. But it’s the only outlet I have for these feelings.
I can’t talk to him about them. Why should I? So that he can better explain to me what exactly is wrong with me? No, thank you. Knowing it is hard enough in the abstract; I don’t require the breakdown and thesis — and I certainly don’t need to know what someone else might have that I do not.
It hurts too much as it stands in my willfully ignorant bliss.
And I do realize how hypocritical it is of me to say, “I don’t want to know!” and to then publish my own thoughts on the matters for the world to read. But if ever there come a time when anyone I’m writing about doesn’t want to know, I would respect it if they asked me not to say anything further. I could always kill them off or change the arc of the story. But this really is just all that I have. It’s easier than talking to friends or family. As candid as I am here about everything from heartbreak to blowjobs, it may difficult to believe this, but I’m too easily embarrassed — too easily shut down. So, I really would understand if he wanted me to stop — if any of the men did — or if they couldn’t bear to read it themselves.
You know, it’s hard sometimes to remember that Ezra wasn’t around for most of those secrets. It’s not that I don’t know that he wasn’t there for them … it’s just weird to think that there was a time when he wasn’t a part of my life. Having known him even just this long, having grown close to him … it’s hard to recall what it felt like when he wasn’t a part of my life. So, I write it all here and I say nothing to him and we have fun and goof around and sing showtunes in the car and drink wine at Barnaby’s and sit silently next to one another through the symphony and giggle through movies and talk about any and everything other than our respective romantic love lives because I can’t handle it.
I’m a fucking mess. I know that. These are the ramblings of either an extremely intuitive individual or those of a paranoid schizophrenic.
Either way, they’re all I have.
And even though he’s not necessarily something that I have, I still can’t stand the thought of him hating me of not having him in my life.
God, I don’t want him to hate me. But I also know that this act of ignorance can only go on so long before I have to get to a place where I’m comfortable hearing all the things I don’t want to hear. So, for now, we just have to be two boys who keep secrets … even if I’ve just spilled all of mine right here onto the page. And maybe eventually the day will come that we can laugh and talk about our boyfriends or sex partners or husbands or loneliness.
I’m just not there yet, babe.