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Less Than Butterflies, No. 22

Let’s get real about something: my love life has all the weirdness of a Wes Anderson film. Like … from falling in love with an asexual, to realizing I had feelings for one of my best friends that I kind of always just thought I hated and everything in between, things were nothing short of fucking ridiculous in that arena. So with all the abberance of emotion, I’d decided that it was probably time to figure out the one situation in my life that had been happening in a relatively normal way. I was finally ready to see where this thing with Mason is going. I know, I know. I literally just said that I wasn’t going to rush anything with him and that I’d let everything happen organically a few weeks ago. But here’s the thing about letting shit grow organically: if you water it too much or let it sit in the sun too long, it can die. All organic matter dies. Add into that my slight tryst and realization of my feelings for Sam, I figured it might be in everyone’s best interest to see which of those feelings carried more weight so that I didn’t invest myself into something that wasn’t going anywhere. So, before this little organic spark with Mason died, I’d resolved to push the envelope a bit more.

Therefore, in doing what I’d been trying to do all along, I mapped out a plan. Well … maybe not “mapped out”. But I had certainly conceived a plan; it just … hadn’t exactly incubated long. I figured that since I was already going to a party at Mason’s house that night, I’d have a few drinks (read: many, many drinks), wait until everyone left to go home, and then politely bring up the conversation in a cool and casual way.

“So, I don’t want to be weird,” I’d tell him as I poured us both a glass of Two Buck Chuck and made my way back to the couch. “But I thought you should know something just so that if you feel similarly about it, there isn’t hesitation to be upfront about those feelings.” That sounded cool. Right? Like someone who really had his shit together and couldn’t be bothered by the fact that this boy might potentially not like him. “I have really enjoyed spending time with you these last few months; and I think I’m growing to like you a great deal. So if ever you are interested, here lies an open invitation for an actual date.”

God how I’d matured.

Unfortunately, anyone who knows me could attest to the fact that the aforementioned example isn’t exactly how that conversation would end up going. In fact, it would likely be more along the lines of something like this:

Ahhh,” [blowing a puff of air]. “All right. Okay. I can do this. I’m a grown-up. Mason, I have feelings for you and if you don’t have them for me that’s totally cool. Fine. I get it. Why would anyone want to date me? Look at me. I have the personality of a 10, sure, but the face of a 6 and the body type of a circus freak.” [More air]. “This is weird. Right? I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m gonna go. I’m gonna go home and cry my eyes out and probably never talk to you again, but post less-than-vague Facebook statuses about how awful men are.” [Standing up]. “Then again, I’ve also had way too much to drink to drive. So would you kindly order and pay for a Lyft home for me, because I am poor after spending so much money on you last weekend.”

Jesus I needed to get a grip.

I explained all of this to my friend Hope while she was off of work one night, under the stupid impression that in her fifty years of life, she might have some insight into this.

“Well, have y’all had sex yet?” she asked. “Cause if so, I don’t think it’s really necessary to say anything at all.”

“No, we have not had sex yet,” I told her as if offended by the question. “I’m trying to get through one phase of this at a time.” That being said, I did want to have sex with him. God I wanted to have sex with him so badly that it nearly killed me. I’d been thinking about it quite a bit, wondering if it’d be like one of those sweeter, Davey Wavey-style porn videos where the two guys are really invested in making each other cry out in joy. But I also wondered if it’d just be like … hot. You know the kind that gets really loud and sweaty and you wish someone were recording it, but unfortunately no one actually wants to see what you look like when you’re having sex?

“Wait …” Hope stopped me as we sipped vodka from the bottle on the patio outside her apartment. “You two haven’t had sex yet?”

“No!” I exclaimed as I took another swig of the vodka. “We’re not even dating. And I am a lady about these things.”

“Oh, hoookay,” Hope told me as she lit a cigarette and then handed one to me.

“I am!” Why did everyone assume I was such a classless slut? I mean, a slut, yes; but classless? No. “I like this guy!” I whined with a stomp of my foot. “And if it happens, I want it to be romantic.” I lit my cigarette and spewed smoke into Hope’s face. “I’ma look real hot and romance his pants off.”

And looking hot I did. Whenever there was a man at stake, I made sure that the clothing options I had were anything but limited. I took a moment before picking out clothes to pray to God (read: Carrie Bradshaw) that I could find something in my closet that Mason hadn’t already seen me in and that would appear not only classy, but sexual. I donned my favorite black button-up from Express with its sleeves rolled up to the middle of my upper-arms — Mason had a thing for guys with biceps; I didn’t have biceps, mind you, but the tightness of the rolled sleeves gave the illusion that I did. I then slipped on a pair of Marc Anthony white linen pants and my nicest black dress shoes. I could tell something about the outfit was off. I looked … puffy.

It took someone else pointing out to me that my clothes were getting too loose from the slight weight that made everything look big. So I made the bold choice of pulling my hair back in an effort to accentuate what few vague, squint-worthy structural features my face had. Then I tucked my shirt into the linen pants — only to find that linen pants apparently don’t have belt loops — and pinned a silk, black scarf around my waist as if it were a belt. I left open all but the three lowest buttons to show off a little skin and the fact that my stomach was finally, after many years of not trying that hard at the gym, flat. I found a new, black umbrella to match the outfit, and glided off to Michelle’s car in the rain when she arrived to pick me up.

Damn,” Michelle said when I got into the car. “Look at you and your outfit!” She smiled. “C’mon, outfit!”

“Man trapping requires a little more effort than usual,” I said with a coy smile. Michelle and I had known one another since high school. It was amazing to watch her grow up and to get to be a part of that. Since high school – and especially so in the years after – Michelle had become an activist for POC queer people and was even currently working in politics for the Democratic Party. She’d also adopted a certain spirituality in that time, which included tarot card readings and speaking to her ancestors. That’s why I wasn’t necessarily surprised when I thought I smelled incense burning and asked about it.

“Uh-uh,” she told me, reaching for something from her cup holder and holding it up to show me. “Sage. I need a little purification if I’m gonna be around all these white people.”

“You know that you won’t be the only Black girl there, right?” I asked her as I checked my hair in the mirror. “Mason has quite a few Black friends. This is not an Affirmative Action invite.”

Hmm,” she muttered as if she doubted me while I giggled in the passenger’s seat. “Where the hell are we even supposed to park?” she then said as we stared down Center Street parallel to Washington Avenue where Mason lived. He’d instructed us to park on Center Street once we’d arrived, but from what I could tell, there was no street parking to be seen. We must have circled the block five or six times before finally finding a spot a little ways up.

“Can we park here?” I asked, looking around for a fire hydrant or a sign saying otherwise, but none were in sight.

“Yeah, I think so. I just saw someone else pull out of this spot,” she said as she put the car in park.

“God, I wish I had cocaine,” I muttered as I stepped out of the car. “I’m not even sure how to get into his building.” That alone proved to be a nightmare. If it hadn’t been for running into our friend Lana on the way up to the door and a girl who lived there letting us in past the gate, we might not have ever made it. “See,” I told Michelle as I pointed to Lana. “I told you there’d be other Black people here.”

Michelle actually seemed relieved, which I could understand to an extent. It’s hard enough being the gay person out in a pack of straight people – the longing to be around people like yourself. Now dissect that into being the only Black, gay person in a crowd. Understandably it could be uncomfortable. And thankfully, from the beginning, Lana and Michelle hit it off, which was good for me. That meant that I’d have one less pair of people distracting Mason from our inevitable conversation he was not yet aware we’d be having.

When we finally found his fourth-floor apartment, there was already a handful of people in the apartment spread around chatting and eating finger foods. Mason opened the door and smiled at all of us, hugging first Lana, then Michelle, and then myself. He looked nice, too, in his pale blue button-up and dress pants. Hearing his voice and watching him smile, I could hear the music in the back of my head, my insides swaying from side-to-side with it while my exterior tried to lock its feet solidly to the floor without visibly swooning.

He had the apartment of a real grown-up. His room was tidy and uncluttered, his laundry in a hamper tucked away in his closet – yes, I was snooping – his living room complete with a couch and a TV, and a bathroom that didn’t reek with the scent of boy or the rogue hairs to be found in any given place there.

As in any situation that required me to move at all, I was sweating my ass off, which, of course, noticed.

“The bathroom is right around the corner if you need to pat down a bit,” he said with a smile, handing me a paper towel. I jerked the towel from his hand and patted myself down right there in the kitchen – from my forehead to my neck to my chest and inside the openings of my shirt.

“I’m okay,” I told him with a smile. “Your new place is niiice,” I told him with a smile as I began putting beer in the fridge that I’d brought, as well as a bottle of champagne that Michelle had made a point of bringing.

“Thanks,” he told me as he pulled some large, frozen pizzas out of the oven to cook for everyone. “I really like it. I’m exhausted though. I pretty much did all of this today.”

The small talk was – to say the least – killing me. If it had just been the two of us, we could have been talking about anything. Anything. Our past hookups, embarrassing shit we’d done while we were drunk, his depression, my mania – the options were limitless. But around all these people – many of them straight – the topics were not allowed to be quite as broad. So, like a lady, I politely took four Solo cups, opened a giant bottle of tequila, and immediately began pouring four shots for Michelle, Lana, Mason, and me.

“To your new place,” I told Mason, holding up my cup and handing each of them theirs.

“What is this?” they all asked.

“Shut up and fucking drink it,” I said with a roll of my eyes, each of them pouring a bit of their shots into my cup. “Pussies.” Nevertheless, we took our shots – all their faces contorting to something reminiscent of Picassos.  And if that hadn’t set the precedent for the rest of the evening, I’m not sure what would. Michelle and Lana played games with some new friends they made – from Jenga to Spades and more – while I watched in the corner and laughed along with them. A few times, I had to take work calls out in the hall, which gave me an excuse to step out and smoke cigarettes.

Social settings always stressed me out far beyond what people would believe. Put me on a stage and give me a microphone and tell me to talk, okay; I’m fine. But stick me in a room full of people engaging socially and wanting to get one another – noooo, sir. I never know what to say or what information to share; and when I do it always comes off so braggy. “Hello! I’m Anthony. I run one of the largest LGBTQ magazines in the state and I have four published novels. What inferiority would you like to share?”

Nevertheless, having had already so many not-so-wonderful experiences around Mason’s friends, I felt it bet to ingratiate myself into their pods so as to get on their good sides. Nothing irritated me more than when two people began dating, and one of those people tried to push away the other’s friends. Well, one thing did … when the person’s whose friends were getting pushed away let their friends be shoved out of the picture. It was silly to me. After all, these are the people who helped sculpt you into the person that your partner fell in love with. Why would you alienate them? Whether or not something more came from my friendship with Mason, I wasn’t going to let that ever be the case between us. If I wanted my friends to be important to him, I had to give him and his friends the same respect.

So the next few hours were filled with uncomfortable small talk, forced laughter, and two invisible hot air balloons holding up either side of my mouth into a smile. But the longer that I participated, the more I watched Mason at ease around his friends, the more comfortable I became, and the more I was able to finally enjoy myself. When most of the crowd had cleared out, the only people left were Lana, Michelle, and two of Mason’s other friends whose names I hadn’t caught – Alexis and Monica, for all intents and purposes.

We’d resorted to playing beer pong – or, at least in the case of Mason and I, because we’re gay, rosé pong. The two of us battled it out against Michelle and Alexis across the table. From what I could gather about Alexis, she was a personal trainer and a lesbian who left no question as to whether or not she was flirting with Michelle. In my head I encouraged this coupling — Yas, queer girls! Couple up! Present and mate! Meanwhile, Mason and I sat on the other end of the table watching as the pair of them suffered through a couple of long rounds of the game.

I’d forgotten how good I was at beer pong until I was actually put into the position of utilizing my skills. The game was a heated match, Mason and I vs. two very competitive and short-tempered lesbians. Beating them would prove to be difficult; but my years of extensive beer pong tutelage under many lesbians before them had led me to that moment and prepared me for it. And as it turned out … I was pretty fucking good. It seemed as though Alexis – who was built like a professional athlete and probably was one – might have the athleticism and hand-eye coordination only attainable by women who have sex with women to beat us; but at every turn she seemed to be just a bit off her game. Cup-after-cup, I managed to get most of the balls to land where I wanted them to, and Mason even made a few lucky shots himself. We gave each other double-handed high-fives, whooping and hollering anytime either of us made a cup, trash talking the lesbians and pretending to jinx the cups before they took their shots.

And when it came down to the final cup, the hardest shot in the entire game to make, we were both so drunk that I was certain neither of us would be able to score the winning goal. I took a step back from the table, drunkenly eyed the glass and measured out the degree of the bend of my elbow, but haphazardly let the ball go too soon. I swore to the gods and stomped my foot loud enough to wake the apartment below us. But then Mason – as if none of it mattered to him in his flippant, careless form – tossed his ball like a 5-year-old playing under-handed tee ball.

I couldn’t look.

Sure, if he missed the cup, we still had plenty of chances to make it up. The girls were far behind us and there was no end on their side in sight for quite a while. But now my competitiveness was getting the best of me. If he were to miss the shot, I would summon the level of anger not seen in sports since earlier that day when Serena Williams was wrongly fouled at the US Open. Still, my own nosiness couldn’t keep my eyes away from that last shot. And as I turned to look, I dug my fingernails into the skin of his biceps while the world and game around us seemed to carry on in slow motion.

HOLY SHIT!” we both shouted when the ball somehow managed to land in the cup. “Holy fucking shit we won!” I yelped as I excitedly turned around and slipped my fingers between his in the air.

And, yes, it was stupid … but after winning that second game of rosé pong, all I wanted to do – even if drunkenly so – was kiss Mason.

I didn’t, for what it’s worth. That would have been moronic and uncalled for. Still as we stood their with our hands gripped in the air, smiling and staring at each other as Michelle and Alexis cursed and playfully accused one another of not pulling through, I had never been more attracted to him in the entire time we’d known one another.

I wiggled my fingers loose a bit, but Mason clung for a second longer. I’d turned away from him, afraid that if I met his eyes, he’d see my lips turning up and the blush splotching across my cheeks. Then a moment later, he let go, and Michelle and Alexis individually prepared to leave.

“Do you want me to take you back to your house?” Michelle asked me as she gathered her things.

I turned and watched Lana, Monica, and Mason gabbing in the corner.

Nah,” I told her while trying to pretend to be a little sober. “I’ll Lyft home or something,” I said with a smile.

Michelle raised her eyebrows and pointed at me with a wagging finger. “I see you,” she said with a laugh.

“Hey,” I called to the others, “I’m gonna walk Michelle down to the street where she parked real quick,” I told them before heading out the door behind her. And that’s exactly what I did. I did not go any further than the sidewalk – mostly for fear that someone might remove my shoe from beneath the gate and lock me out of the building – before bidding her adieu and heading back up the four flights of stairs (I was far too impatient to wait on the slow ass elevator in Mason’s building). And as I traced up them, I began to talk myself through all the red wine and tequila and vodka and rosé that I would make myself have this conversation with Mason I’d been planning to have with him. After all, by now we were both sufficiently drunk enough to at least not be awkward about it. And if worse came to worst, I’d at least mustered up the courage to do something I’d not been able to do properly with so many men before him. It wouldn’t kill me not to be dating Mason. Sure, I liked him. But I wasn’t in quite deep enough to catapult myself down into ruin if he broke my heart. In fact … I wasn’t even sure that I had the feelings for him to do that.

When I walked back up to Mason’s apartment – which was gaily decorated with a papier-mâché ‘M’ attached to the wall and a row of tiny, colorful, donkey-shaped piñatas that lined the ground along the threshold – I could hear him talking to someone, pausing where there was no response, and talking again. I pushed the unclosed door open and found him sitting in the window seat overlooking the street as Lana stood and rushed past me to head downstairs.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“It’s Michelle,” Mason told me. “She can’t find her car.”

“What do you mean she can’t find her car?” I asked. “I just walked her down to the block where she parked.”

“She says it’s not where y’all left it,” he told me with a shrug. He then covered the phone with his hand, “She was a little drunk. Maybe you should go help her find it,” he suggested.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I muttered, turning around and flying back down the stairs. I stuck my shoe in the gate again to hold the door open, then trotted down Center Street with a limp toward Michelle, who I found standing on the corner nearest to where we had parked her car. “Are you serious?” I asked her, looking around and realizing that her car, in fact, was not where we’d left it.

“It must have been towed!” she shouted to the empty street around us. “I knew this wasn’t a parking spot!” she went on as I walked into the empty space where her car had been, then backed up toward her without turning around.

“How could it not be?” I asked, still facing the street and walking backward. “There’s no tow-away sign or anything—”

As I was saying it, I’d backed into something hard, cold, and sturdy. When I whipped around to see the street sign before me, I looked up a few feet to realize that there was, indeed, a sign at the top indicating that this was not a parking spot.

“Well, shit,” I muttered as I stared up at it. “How the fuck did we miss that?” I asked. “We weren’t even drunk yet …”

Traversing back to the fourth floor, we met Lana along the way, who reported that her car, too, had been towed away before reentering Mason’s apartment. The realization that everyone’s cars were missing laid upon me an even thicker realization:

I was not going to get my talk with Mason tonight.

I drew in a heavy breath and relinquished a sigh just as great, grabbed a marker and a paper plate, then handed them to Michelle while asking Lana to come to the counter.

“Write your license plate numbers down,” I told them with a roll of my eyes as I reached across the counter to pour another glass of wine. “I’ll find your cars,” I told them.

“Are you sure?” Michelle asked.

“Yeah,” I told her as I took a giant gulp of Shiraz. “My car’s been towed so many fucking times in my life that I ought to know how.”

I spent the next thirty minutes calling the Houston Police Department, and in turn numerous tow yards, in order to find out where exactly their cars were before returning with answers. I pulled Michelle outside the apartment.

“Okay, listen,” I told her, sipping my wine. “It’s going to be $235 to get the car out of impound. Do you have it?” I asked. It wouldn’t have been the first time I had to get someone’s car out of impound, but I certainly was not as financially prepared to bail hers out as I had been before if she didn’t’ have the money. Luckily, she did. My next question pertained more specifically to myself than it did to Michelle, but I asked anyway. “Do you want to wait here a minute to sober up before we do this?”

Michelle’s shoulders dropped and her head tilted to one side. “I am sober. You on the other hand—”

“Hey, hey, hey!” I interjected. “I may be drunk, but I was still able to successfully locate your cars. Was I not?”

Michelle shrugged, then shoved past me to get back into Mason’s apartment. If nothing else, Michelle and Lana could still go to their respective vehicles and I might still have a shot at having this conversation with Mason. Still … part of me would’ve felt like a shitty friend had I let Michelle and Lana go to some dark ass tow yard in the middle of one of the worst neighborhoods in Houston at 2 AM to retrieve their vehicles.

Therein laid the dichotomy that had been haunting me since I was old enough to start dating:

Friendship … or dick?

“Lana, do you want to share an Uber down there,” Michelle asked, sort of making the decision for me.

 

“No, no, no!” Mason – also drunk – interjected – as he stood up and began fumbling around his apartment for his shoes and keys. “I’ll drive y’all down there.”

Jesusfuckingchrist,” I muttered under my breath, downing the rest of my wine and then pouring another. I rolled my eyes and reached across the kitchen for my umbrella. “Well, let me get my things, considering I probably won’t be coming back here.” I reached for the recyclable grocery bag I’d also brought with me that had previously held beers I never planned to drink from my own house. Feeling silly for taking the bag with nothing to put inside of it, I – for no real reason – reached across the bar and grabbed two bananas off a bunch and tossing them down inside.

“Why are you stealing my bananas?” Mason asked me with a roll of his eyes.

“I’m a kleptomaniac!” I shouted as I made my way – Solo cup full of wine in hand – out the door and toward Mason’s parking garage. I jumped into the front seat and placed my wine down in the cup holder as the girls in the back chatted and Mason did his best to maintain enough composure to not be caught driving drunk. After taking a sip of my wine and placing it back in the cup holder, I felt Mason’s hand brush against mine, although not in the drunk, romantic way he might normally to hold mine. As my hand came up, his continued to go down until his fingers wrapped around the rim of my cup and pulled it up chest-level.

“What are you doing?” I asked him, unsure as to whether he was going to drink it, which I’d not have minded.

“I don’t want it to spill,” he told me, clinging to it a bit tighter.

“It’s not going to spill in the cup holder,” I told him. “It’s not even half-full.”

“It’s fine,” he told me, sighing as if exasperated. “I don’t mind holding it.”

Ill hold it,” I told him as I jerked the cup out of his hands and back into my own. I took another swig from it just as Mason was approaching a railroad track before us. Most people, when approaching a railroad track, might take the time to slow down enough as to not sending all their passengers flying across the cabin. Most people, however, were not as drunk as Mason. And when he haphazardly flew over the railroad tracks without coming to a slow, the cup did fly out of my hands and spilled all over my lap … onto my very expensive white linen pants.

I’ve had a lot of men do a lot of shitty things to me, a lot who have made mistakes I was able to let go of and move on from. But in my short dating life as an adult gay man, I’d never had a man inadvertently ruin my favorite and most expensive pair of pants while driving drunk.

I could have killed him.

At the impound lot, I did my best to continue unreactive, but could not help myself. More than once, I reminded everyone how much those pants had cost, and I could see the guilt of it all squirming across Mason’s face. And it wasn’t just the matter of my pants … it was everything, most important of which was the situation with the cars. Here was the awkward, flirty, tactile 25-year-old who’d wanted nothing more than to have his closest friends over to celebrate his move into his brand new, very-adult apartment. Meanwhile, two of the attendees had found themselves $235 poorer after bailing their cars out of vehicle and me – arguably one of his closer friends – throwing a fit over a pair of pants that probably wouldn’t have even been ruined to begin with if I’d just let him hold the stupid cup like he’d said.

The ride back to his apartment was … awkward at best. Michelle and Lana had made their ways home, Monica had been dropped off outside of her apartment building, and Mason and I sat silently in his near-empty vehicle trying not to make things any weirder than they already were. When we parked back in the parking garage, I stumbled out of the car and inadvertently dropped the bananas on the cement ground. When I reached down for them to toss them back in my bag, Mason stopped me and reminded me that there were more bananas in his house – which was not the point. Still, I was willing to forgo them if I was going to get to have this weird conversation with Mason upstairs. But the closer we drew from the garage to his apartment, the more of a bad idea that seemed to be. After all, the poor guy had just had to take his friends to the impound to free their cars, and I had just bitched him out about ruining my favorite pants. Say this conversation weren’t to go the way I’d hoped. Then we’d just both be drunk and Mason would have yet another awkward weight sitting on his shoulders to burden after the catastrophic close to an otherwise successful night.

So by the time we reached the hall, I stopped in my tracks and threw my arms down beside me.

“I’m gonna go home and let you get some rest,” I told him with an intonation that wasn’t necessarily sympathetic, but rather one that resonated my own irritation at the futility of my plans to define the relationship.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “Do you want to stay here?” he asked.

“No,” I told him with a shake of my head, looking around to see if I could navigate myself through the halls to get back down to the street.

“Do you want me to pay for your Lyft?” he asked. “It’s the least I can do considering that I ruined your pants.”

I rolled my eyes. “No,” I replied even more aggravated by this guilt-trippy suggestion.

“Well, why don’t you give me your address and let me take you home?” he asked.

No,” I impressed again upon him. Jesus. What was up with this guy? Couldn’t he just take no for an answer? What was all of this annoying, gentleman bullshit? Chivalry is dead, dude! I found my inner-monologue shouting at him. Annoyed, I turned away from him and began walking in what I thought was the right direction. Less than a second later, however, Mason was grabbing me by the shoulder and dragging me in the opposite direction.

“Well, let me at least walk you down to the street,” he told me, leading the way to the nearest staircase and out the gate. When we reached the ground level and I began to trek away from him without saying goodbye, I could still hear his footsteps right behind me.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“I’m walking with you,” he explained.

“I’m just going to the front of the building so the Lyft can find me,” I lied. I had no plans of catching a Lyft. My only plans at that point were to stomp off by foot down toward Pearl Bar a few blocks down and get sufficiently drunk with the lesbians before last call. I wasn’t going to tell him that, though.

“Okay, well then I’m walking you to the front of the building and waiting with you,” he told me.

I rolled my eyes and groaned. Why, oh why did this man have to choose now to be a gentleman? Where was the guy who touched me somewhat inappropriately when we were drunk and who sent me embarrassing Snapchat videos of himself when he was browsing the aisles of CVS when he certainly shouldn’t have even been driving? Where was the cute boy who laid back on the weird, boot-shaped bench outside Neon Boots and inched his hand nearer and nearer to me to be held?

“You don’t have to do that,” I told him, still sounding aggravated as ever.

“Okay,” he sighed, defeated, though probably just ready to get into his own bed and go to sleep.

“You really don’t want me to walk with you?” he asked.

“No,” I told him again – a broken record.

“Well, can I have a hug?” he asked.

“No,” I muttered out in a way that wasn’t even slightly capable of stifling my irritation anymore.

He hugged me anyway – not a long hug, not the kind that might have made my heart skip a beat on any other occasion. It was just a hug. Plain. Dry. Routine.

“I love you,” he said as I pulled away from my already unenthusiastic reciprocation.

No.

I turned away from him and walking down Center Street toward the intersection to head back to Washington Ave. And when I knew he was no longer watching, I bolted in the opposite direction toward Pearl Bar. A large part of me wanted to cry – and later I would. But for the time being, I was going to drink at the bar where the doorman knew who I was and let me bypass him without checking my ID. I was going to get lost in my own, unnecessary, drunk thoughts wondering why on earth every little thing I tried to carry out with this guy always went awry. I was going to let all those memories of Ezra and my father and every other man I’d ever loved remind me that maybe this was just the soft end of a much more difficult blow I wasn’t quite ready to suffer. I was going to have Gwen come and pick me up from the bar – but only because she offered – and get mad at my friend Sam simply because he was a man – and cry silently on the way back to my house. And it wasn’t because Mason had done anything or said anything – it wasn’t even really because I hadn’t gotten the chance to have the conversation with him I had finally mustered up enough courage to entertain having.

It was just that everything that I’d been waiting for – all the gratification I wasn’t even yet sure would come – had been, once again, delayed. I was tired of delaying my happiness because of other people. Whether it have been a year of my love life gone because I was too hung up on Ezra or years of my childhood squandered waiting for just one adult to look at me and see something in me that they thought was special, I was tired of waiting. I liked Mason, godddamnit. I liked him a lot. And he was the first man in a very long time to make me think he might actually like me a little bit, too. And certainly, I had no one to blame for the fact that I hadn’t had this conversation with him tonight but myself. I shouldn’t have gotten so drunk, and I should have paid closer attention to the street signs around Michelle’s car and I shouldn’t have gotten irritated when I finally did have the chance to talk to him.

And I knew the opportunity would come again soon – we were, after all, going to be spending a weekend out of town together for a conference in Austin just two weeks after. And I knew that at that time, I’d finally manage to have him alone long enough and that we’d both have a drink or two to take the edge off in the event that things did turn awkward. But even that latter thought frustrated me. Why did I feel I had to be drunk to have this conversation with him? What was that going to help really? It wasn’t going to really dull the pain I may feel if he said he didn’t like me, too. It might prolong some of it, but it was all certain to come regardless. And my dumb, drunken acts tonight were clear indication that this was not a conversation I needed to have with him when I was under the influence of alcohol. I couldn’t realistically romance Mason’s pants off if I were too drunk to function. And that’s what I wanted from this:

If it were going to go the way I’d been hoping, I at least wanted it to be mildly romantic. I didn’t want it to be the ramblings of a drunken homo trying to settle down with a well-to-do man before I ran out of all other options. My feelings for Mason were sweet and affectionate.

I wanted to present them in a way that was representative of that fact.

 

I just still didn’t know if they were greater than those I had for Sam.

Still, in the three days that followed that party, I wasn’t sure if I’d quite have the nerve to bring it up again then. If only I’d known then as I was beating myself up that the return of a man I’d long-since given up on holding out my affections for would soon galvanize me into a place where I would be forced to confront the status of my relationship with not only Mason, but Sam, as well. This little trifecta was only going to complicate itself by spiraling into insanity because another man — and then another — would soon shake things up and make me reconsider everything.

The first of those two men, ladies and gentleman, was a certain fellow I’d once known from the Room Bar by the name of Taylor Kyle.

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