Less Than Butterflies, No. 14, Pt. II
“Maybe we can be each other’s soul mates and then we can let men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with.”
This is how new lows start off:
You wake up in a room you don’t recognize, rolling over in the somewhat stuffy hotel bed to see a shirtless man lying on the other side facing away from you. You panic momentarily wondering who it is while simultaneously checking to see how much clothing you still have on, then fly into a frenzy as you remember all the responsibilities you’re shirking off at that very moment because you made poor choices. However, the turn-around of realizing all your clothes are still in place on your habitus and that the shirtless man lying next to you in bed is only your friend Sam down for his weekend visit to Houston ease your anxiety a bit and settle you back into your normal level of neurosis. Still, it doesn’t account for the fact that it’s nearly noon and that you have a work obligation an entire city away.
I tried to let Sam sleep as I looked around for my keys, but he woke soon after in much better spirits and with much better cognition than I. He, too, was also running late for a brunch date with another friend and hurried from the Galleria hotel to figure out where I’d left my car the night before, find my missing effects, and Lyft back to Montrose.
Only, like all things at that point in my life, none of it chose to accord to plan. And why? Because, yet again, I had been too busy avoiding human emotion like the plague and partaking in hedonism the likes of which even David Bowie had never even quite known. All the while, I was apparently accruing new credits of bad karma and getting myself tangled up into messes which I might not ever truly be able to untwine myself.
I was drinking with some work colleagues at Rosemont, Montrose’s swanky, rooftop bar when Sam had arrived in Houston nearly two hours earlier than expected. That much made sense. He was the single most hapless drive I’d ever met in my entire life and had all the automotive makings of a Grand Theft Auto protagonist. He texted me to let me know he was with friends at the Eagle, where I dragged my work friends and met with him after another hour of roaming around, drinking, and looking for one another. Sam always seemed to be followed by a harem of cum-thirsty twinks and was the sort of party-til-we-approach-death hedonist I could only ever aspire to be. Drinking at the Eagle didn’t last long, nor did our stint at the newly-minted Mary’s Alibi. We drank our weight in vodka, but neither of us was quite ready for the evening to be over, especially not after running into Sam’s good friend Chase — an underage young twink that had no business being in any of these places, let alone drinking in them. My work friends were struggling to keep up with our perpetual alcoholism and I found myself calling a Lyft for one and letting the other straggle off into the poorly-lit streets of Montrose to find his much more sober husband at another bar.
We made one more repeat stop at the Eagle, where we got in another drink and shot for last call with Chase before shutting down the bar and finding our way to Sam’s car to go home with Chase for more alcohol. Somehow, what was supposed to be a momentary visit with these strangers (to me) ended up being an all-night party. Upon arriving, Sam immediately dashed to the master bedroom of the two-story townhome where he woke Chase’s roommate Carla by jumping right into bed with her. And as the hours ticked by, as the shots were poured, as bad drink combinations of vodka and flattened Sprite Zero were consumed, and as rails upon rails of coke were sorted into our nasal cavities, I found myself more and more exhausted from my week of nonstop debauchery.
Sam and I sat at the bar in the kitchen talking with Carla, Chase, and the other people that straggled in and out of their East Downtown (EaDo) home. Everyone danced and sang along to tracks older than I, munching on a bowl of sliced watermelon Carla had prepared and talking about how long everyone had known one another and all the good times they’d shared. I, however, did not share-in most of these memories and found that I was too tired to much engage after a while. Sam could tell, and offered to let me take his car back to his hotel to get some sleep or to order me a Lyft to my car in Montrose. I didn’t take him up on either of these offers, however. For one, I didn’t want to be the person who left the party just because I had work events the next morning; for two, I rarely got to spend any time with Sam and figured it wise to get as much time in with him as I could.
So, I pretended, yet again, that everything was perfectly fine, forcing myself to perk back up and engage with the strangers I was quickly getting to know, albeit a bit too well. In spite of my own exhaustion, Sam’s friends did turn out to be a nice group of people, all of whom seemed extremely bright and genuine. And for a while, I wondered if I was missing out by not having more friends that I was close to the way that Sam seemed to in every city he lived in when his insanely busy career took flight to and fro a different city across the nation.
The sun was coming up when we finally left the townhouse. It was after 6 AM, and upon returning to the hotel in the Galleria, I knew I’d need to crash for a least a few hours before I was able to do anything for work. And so, without saying much of anything to the other, smelling like stale cigarette smoke and a vodka-sweat compound, both Sam and I fell asleep until nearly noon.
After my panic had receded and the memories had come back to me, I still couldn’t find my keys. I walked down to Sam’s car, which he’d left there to Lyft to brunch, and punched in the keycode to check and see if they were inside. My car was parked on the streets of Montrose, which was never a safe idea for longer than a few hours. Friends upon friends had had their windows smashed in, their valuables stolen, and even their entire cars removed by thieves or tow trucks. Upon not finding them there, I found myself more disgusted with myself and took to the streets in an old Pride tank top and a crotch-high pair of booty shorts to find somewhere I would at least be able to get a pack of cigarettes to ease me through my troubles. I must have looked like a hooker who’d lost her way as I walked up and down Westheimer through the Galleria until I finally found a Walgreens from which I could purchase a pack of Marlboros. My hair was up in an oily, messy, falling ponytail and the insides of my shorts kept riding up to the point of chafing the entire way there and back. Once or twice, while lost in my own thoughts about how stupid I’d been, I almost got hit by Bentleys and Lexuses as I dashed across crosswalks.
When I returned to the 8th floor of the hotel to see if I’d missed any part of the room where my keys may have been, I realized I’d not asked Sam to leave a keycard for me at the hotel.
“Fuck!” I shouted as I slapped my palms against a plate-glass window overlooking the Galleria outside his room. I shook my head and checked the time again, texting Gwen and a few others to let them know I’d be late to the event to which I was to accompany them. Gwen wasn’t going until I did, as she and I had made the decision to ride together. But that didn’t change the fact that people that worked for me were going to be sorely disappointed in my less-than-professional appearance several hours after the event in Galveston. It was the weekend of Pride Galveston, a beach bash and block party I was expected to show my face at, and I was already missing it.
I sulked down the wall to the floor and cupped my hands to my face. For a moment, I did something a bit out of the ordinary and actually let myself reflect on the poor and reckless choices I’d made just a few hours before. In a moment of extreme weakness, my eyes became lined with tears and snot dripped down into my throbbing, cocaine-laced nose. I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been and was currently being. It was no wonder that I was single and alone if this was the kind of behavior I displayed for the rest of the world to see. The magazine editor who couldn’t deal with life’s trials and tribulations, and instead made a point of self-medicating with booze and drugs.
“Fuck,” I said again, this time in a whisper.
“You know,” a voice came from down the hall, “You could have just gone down to the front desk and asked them to make you another key. They would’ve just called me to make sure it was okay.” Wiping the tears from my eyes and inhaling my snot-drip, I looked over to find Sam approaching with a doggy-bag of leftovers. He held a key fob up to the door and kicked the hotel room open with his foot. “But no,” he went on as I stood up. “That would’ve been both way too easy and not nearly dramatic enough for you.”
I leered at him for a moment. Was this really my savior? My snarky friend whom I’d partly partaken in this behavior as to get to spend some quality time with him? Then, however, he threw the doggy bag at me and muttered, “I got you an omelette,” and all was forgiven.
After getting cleaned up and traipsing around Montrose to try to find my keys — which proved to be of no help considering nearly all the bars we’d visited were still closed — Sam called Chase to see if he was at home so that we could search their house. As it happened, Chase had royally fucked up his back in all of the heathenly endeavors of the night before and was currently sitting underage in the emergency room with cocaine and liquor coursing through his veins. Carla had gone with him.
“We’re looking for Anthony’s car keys,” he told a handicapped Chase as if the matter of him being laid up in the hospital was of secondary importance to our current predicament.
“Oh,” Chase replied. “They’re on the coffee table in the den downstairs,” he informed us. I let out an exhausted sigh of relief. That is, until he said, “I think … I could be wrong.”
Sam wished Chase well, then hung up the phone and darted back toward EaDo. “It doesn’t matter. I think I know their garage code, so we should be able to get in.”
Arriving in EaDo, I did not recognize any of the surroundings, but took Sam’s word for it when he parked in front of a house he said to be theirs. We jumped out of his vehicle and darted toward the garage door. I stood nervously by as Sam punched numbers into the security box beside the door, all of which were incorrect in his trials. While he continued to open the door, I made my way toward the front and began overturning stones to see if I might find a hide-a-key underneath. I even gave the front door a tug to see if it might have been left unlocked by mistake to no avail. I peered my eyes through the glass of the front door. Through the foggy stained glass, the downstairs looked different than I thought to remember it. Only, I didn’t really remember much about it at all due to my intake of toxic substances to my body.
“Are you sure this is their house, Samuel?” I asked him as I joined him again at the garage.
“Yes!” he told me as he picked up his phone to call Carla. “Hey!” he greeted her. “Do you have that app that opens your garage door from your phone?” She must have told him she did, because he said, “Great!” before explaining to them why we needed to get inside.
A moment later he hung up, and we waited just a few seconds for the garage door to open. When I finally heard the sound of a garage door opening, I picked my head up and looked to my left, where I noticed another garage door opening across the street revealing Chase’s familiar car inside.
“Oh,” Sam muttered. “I guess this wasn’t their house.”
“Omigod!” I nearly screamed as I dashed across the street to the appropriate home. “Can we please not fuck this weekend up even more by adding a B&E to the agenda?”
Gwen and I arrived at Pride Galveston several hours late. Despite the fact that my keys had been where Chase had claimed they’d be, my string of bad luck kept up over the next few hours. One of my employees went into an all-out rant on me in front of our staff about my tardiness (by which I really had no right to be upset and for which I had not a single good excuse); I grabbed the wrong tank top at home by mistake and was unable to sport the company logo; I dropped and broke an entire bottle of vodka in Gwen’s driveway I’d planned to drink at the festivities; our meal and service at a local Sheraton we’d visited for dinner that night was a fiasco involving plastic baked into the food and wrong orders, and untimely service; my credit card had been left behind in Sam’s hotel room; a man named Steve who had been hopelessly in love with me since we’d met (and with whom I’d also once slept with in a drunken blackout) had shown up to see me; my friend Brandon made some less-than-kind remarks toward Gwen that put the two of them at odds for a few hours; and Gwen received news immediately upon our arrival that one of her oldest and dearest friends had passed away.
Was Mercury in fucking retrograde or something? Or was it that I’d summed up so much bad juju that my cup then runneth over and was waterboarding my friends?
But even with the bad, there came to be some good. We met with my friend Brandon who agreed to pretend to be my boyfriend while Steve was around, which meant at least for one day I’d get at least a pretend boyfriend who would kiss me and hold my hand, even if it was a close friend of mine for whom I had only platonic feelings; Gwen got some much-needed alone time on the beach to reflect and honor her friend; my employees and I drank and eventually ended up having some fun; our disgusting meal at the Sheraton was comped by the hotel’s delightful manager; and Brandon politely apologized to Gwen, who chose to forgive him, if only for my sake.
After the block party, Gwen, Brandon, and I retreated back to Montrose to meet up again with Sam, who called us several times imploring we pick him up from a straight bar he had no business being at. We smoked a bowl on the way back to Houston and both our troubles seemed to at least temporarily melt away. We laughed at a billboard on the highway the read only, “JESUS,” and stood brave, and bold, and stout directly over a strip club. The ride back might have been the most resolute and calming part of the last few days. Sure, I’d been having fun, even it were an empty, vapid sort of fun that left me longing to return to my responsibilities in some regard. But nevertheless, I was among friends, and I had very few that I enjoyed being with as much as I did Gwen. Listening to classic rock in the car and smoking weed and making jokes about things we may not have even been sure were funny made up for some of the shit that had gone wrong over the last few hours. Then there was the added bonus of Sam and Brandon. Sam was a far-away friend with whom I always looked forward to spending my time. Brandon and I saw each other on rare occasion. Sure, he drank more than I did and did so much coke at Pride Galveston that his nose resorted to a seemingly perennial bleed from the abuse he’d cast upon it. But he was a good guy, nonetheless. It was important to me that Gwen not be angry with him for acting like an idiot while he was drunk.
Years before, when we’d first met, I was living in the Woodlands about 45 minutes north of Houston and had been set up by a friend on a blind date. We were to meet at some burger joint which was conveniently located across the street from my then-apartment. Upon walking inside the restaurant, I totally lost my nerve and nearly decided to back out. However, I figured if I could at least get a few drinks in me before my date I wouldn’t even recognized arrived, I might feel better about it and at least get some intense sex out of the situation. I’d taken a seat at the bar and immediately engaged with a very attractive and very gay bartender who had just run out of cranberry juice and supplemented with some very acidic pineapple juice.
We chatted about nothing for a while, but I soon saw him leaning in close to chat with an incredibly short and balding man at the end of the bar. He wasn’t very attractive, and to add insult to injury, he donned an offensively acrid cologne that could be smelled all the way from my seat many barstools down. The bartender must have recognized me as … well … family, in a manner of speaking, and asked quietly if I was there to meet anyone. I immediately pulled a book out of my bag and dug my nose into it, telling the bartender through gritted teeth, “Yes. But do not repeat that to that man. I don’t think I can go through with this.” The bartender agreed, then asked a few other lonely singletons at the bar for show before letting my not-date know no one there was supposed to be on a date.
When my date texted me a few moments later to ask where I was, I slyly responded behind my book that I was running late due to car trouble, but that he wouldn’t be able to miss me when I walked in, as I was an incredibly tall and built black man. The stark contrast here was only in relation to my actual olive-colored skin that had been hybrid from my Jewish and Mexican backgrounds and the part about being built, as I had actually gained an unimpressive amount of weight at that time in my life. I was, however, quite tall.
When the man left, the bartender returned to high-five me and introduced himself as Brandon. The rest is history.