Less Than Butterflies, No. 29
As per the usual, I sat at the bar of Tony’s Corner Pocket staring at my friend and bartender, Michael. He was writing all my drinks on the comp list and I was bitching about one thing or another and screaming at him in Spanish when I sensed he wasn’t paying attention to me.
“PAY ATTENTION TO ME,” I shouted across the bar. There was no one else there.
“I am paying attention to you,” he told me without looking up from his phone. “I know you may not be used to this from men, but I’m trying to listen to you without interrupting you.”
I grabbed a shot he’d put on the bar for me earlier and downed it quickly before rolling my eyes. “What a load of bullshit.”
“Have you ever considered not being so eager with a guy?”
“Who’s eager?!” I asked him as I sucked a lime to soften the blow of the tequila and thought to myself that I should get a slice of one of these every time I had to give a blowjob. “What about my charming disposition seems eager for other people to like me? Is it the way I kick men out of my bed literally seconds after they ejaculate? Is it the way I haven’t had anything nice to say to a man since I said that Obama really was the change we needed? Or maybe it’s the way I tell men that they’re ugly and stupid and then let them buy me alcohol.”
Michael finally put his phone down and just stared at me. “Do you … ya’ know … hear yourself when you speak?”
“No one else does; why should I?” I shrugged and went to lean back in my barstool that didn’t have a back to it, inadvertently falling off of it altogether.
Michael came around the bar, rolling his eyes again and helping me up off the ground.
“This is what I’m talking about,” he told me as he grabbed me by the hand and yanked me upward with strength he did not look as though he had. “You do this whole damsel-in-distress thing as if you’re constantly waiting on some man to save you from something that isn’t there … yet you’re mean to them.”
“I will have you know that I am not a damsel in distress!”
“I know that you’re not. You’re a perfectly capable human being!” Michael stopped and shrugged. “Okay, maybe not ‘perfectly’ capable, but you manage.”
“HOW DARE YOU?!” I said as I reached forward to smack him in the mouth.
“STOP TRYING TO FIGHT ME!”
“IT’S ALL I KNOW HOW TO DO WITH MEN! Other than being mad at them for attention.”
Michael rounded the bar and pushed my shot and lime toward me. “All of those things you just said, whether you want to believe them or not, are your cries for help. You did the same thing with Peter, just like I’m sure you did with every other man you were involved with or interested in long before we ever met.” He picked up his own shot of Jameson and raised his glass toward mine. We clinked. “Would it kill you to just enjoy what you’re feeling right now, and to stop pushing these men away while you wait for the other shoe to drop?” We took our shots. “You know …” he spewed hot air out of his mouth after the shot. “… just be a person.”
I slammed my shot glass on the bar and reached for my not-blowjob lime.
“I want another shot,” I told him angrily.
“To the head.”
“So you wrote about me?” Ricky asked me as he struggled with great futility to get the tire lock off of his car.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked him, eyes narrowed and nose a bit wrinkled.
He didn’t break his gaze — in his subtle yet undeniable determination, Ricky was going to get the truth out of me.
… or so he thought.
“I’m ‘Ricky’ in Less Than Butterflies. Right?”
I tried so very hard not to skip a beat. “No, you narcissist,” I told him with a roll of my eyes. We were sitting on the floor trying to get the tire lock off of his car since he’d hit a curb and flattened his tire. He’d apparently lost the key some time and we were now tapping into our Hispanic roots to try and break it off.
“Mhmm, okay,” he said with emphatically pursed lips.
“You’re not,” I told him. “I already told you about Ricky. He was some guy I was seeing briefly and now it’s over.” I don’t even know why I was bothering to lie to him at this point. He was gonna read about it all anyway.
As he struggled to get the new tool removed from his tire that he’d now managed to get stuck to it, Ricky went on talking about how frustrating the situation with his car had been. Having to Uber to-and-fro, having to ask other people for rides, how it had interrupted him in the middle of moving. He was definitely between a rock and a hard place, and I felt for him. We’d all been there. Hell, sometimes I thought I still was there. And I wanted to do whatever I could to help him.
“You know, I was in a relationship for six years,” he went on. “When shit like this happened, I always had a boyfriend to help me get things taken care of so that it didn’t take this long or cost this much.” He shook his head and fell back flat against the garage wall. “I’m not used to it.”
I sighed and sat up some, rolling my eyes in the process, I’m sure. “Look, tomorrow, if you’ll call USAA and have them send a wrecker, I’ll take off and go get the car fixed for you. And then, if it’s done before you get off, I’ll come and pick you up in it, and that’ll be one less thing you have to worry about while you’re moving.”
Ricky bit his bottom lip as if he was thinking and turned to look at the sad, pathetic little tire. He then turned back to the me and clucked his tongue. “So, what’re you saying?” he asked. “That you’re my boyfriend now?”
I did my best to will the blood away from my face … only it wasn’t working.
“Shut up,” I told him as I stood up and went inside just to get out of that awkward situation.
I keep a box of old photos and cards and sentimental shit where no one can find it. It’s sort of my way of metaphorically hiding my exes’ lifeless corpses. The contents of it are mostly memories from old relationships, but also memories from friends I hold close to my heart, family photos, possessions of my grandmother’s that I accrued after she’d passed away. They’re priceless things — things that can never be replicated — things with memories associated to them I never want to forget.
From the box, I took out any and every last thing that had anything to do with Peter at all.
- An autographed photo of Taylor Swift, a concert he’d taken me to back in October.
- His press passes from all the other events we’d been to together.
- A concert t-shirt I’d never given back to him because I’d liked the way it fit me in spite of the fact that he’d spent $40 on it for himself.
- The wig he’d worn with his Halloween costume the year before.
- My favorite photo of us from the St. Lucia concert where he smiled at the camera with that tired, sheepish smile I’d fallen so much in love with.
I gathered all of those things in a new box, one I’d gotten from the liquor store when I’d made a very large purchase a few weeks before, and dropped it all in there. After I’d collected every single last thing inside of it, I made my way out to a safe space on the concrete in the backyard and doused the goddamn box with gasoline. I then lit a cigarette and smoked it about halfway down while I stood there over it thinking about how much I wanted to stop falling into old patterns and routines. I wanted to stop falling in love with men who would never be able to properly love me the way that I deserved to be loved. I wanted to stop letting gay culture dictate how I had to behave in a relationship or a not-relationship. I wanted to stop reaching for the finish line every single time a man woke up the butterflies inside of me. And as I reflected on all of these things, on all of the men who had broken my heart, on the wise words of both Cooper and Michael (fuck them, by the way), I took the cigarette out of my mouth and threw it dead into the center of the box.
It erupted into a glorious fire comparable to the one I’d been feeling in my heart since Peter had left me. And as it burned away, I think some of my incompetence in relationships and my fears about letting men into my life did, as well. It may not have been a forever purge, but the catharsis was so strong that I knew I’d be able to conjure its memory any time that I was in doubt of myself. And that’s what really mattered, right? The feeling of self-assuredness? Whatever was going to happen with Ricky was going to happen. Maybe this little crush would grow, maybe it would fade. Maybe he’d break my heart, maybe he wouldn’t. I couldn’t change any of it, just like I couldn’t make him or any other man feel something that they weren’t capable of feeling. What I could do, however, was know that if I made a decision to put myself out there, to just say ‘yes’ every now and again, someone else telling me ‘no’ wasn’t going to kill me … even if sometimes it felt as though it might.
So I helped Ricky get his car taken care of the next day. Two wrecker drivers, two tire shops, five minutes of labor, and twenty dollars of his money was all it took. I was done before he got off work, and I was happy to be done, but equally as happy to have done it. With the time I had to kill, I got his car washed, worked a little bit in spite of the fact that I’d promised myself a day off, picked him up from work, got my car, and felt as if I’d had a productive day. It was more than just productive though … it was nice. It felt nice to help someone and it felt nice to know that that person appreciated it because they’d really needed the help. But as we sat at dinner that night at Barnaby’s, we discussed some things that Ricky was writing and had asked for my help with and I found myself asking those questions again.
Do I like him? Should I like him? Can I go through that again and come out okay?
His trademark quality — his passion — beamed out of every single one of his pores as he discussed the project, and the young artists he’d been working with that were not only featured within it, but that inspired it. And we drank wine, and we talked formatting, and Ricky came back to his little muses and eventually began to cry some. He was a pretty crier, thankfully, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do to comfort him. That was another thing gay culture didn’t prepare you for: how to handle other people’s feelings. As someone with a lot of younger siblings, as someone who is innately nurturing, it was my initial reaction to sit beside him and hold him; but I couldn’t allow that because the boundaries were still too unclear. So with honest words, I reassured him of himself, of what he was doing, and of the fact that his feelings were all valid. And in a moment of vulnerability — one likely brought on by some wine and the overwhelming nature of trying to move and having car problems and everything else he’d been going through — Ricky said to me, “You’re the only person in my corner right now.”
I swear to god I felt my bones turn to slush inside of me and I nearly slipped out of our booth and beneath the table. It was quite possibly the saddest thing I’d heard that day — and that came in layers. The first layer is that no one should ever have to feel like they don’t have people on their side. The second — and I mean this — is that if you’ve only got one person in your corner, and that person is me, you have been dealt a bad hand by the powers that be.
It worried me for both of us. I knew he’d be okay, so that worry was limited. He was smart, and agile, and capable. This was just a rough patch. I, on the other hand, wasn’t that person. I was the guy who kept notes on Starbucks napkins in shoeboxes and set them on fire later. What was I going to do if this crush ever turned out to be anything more than that? Who would be in my corner when that happened? And would it mean losing a friend I’d only just gotten and really didn’t want to lose? After all, this was it. This was the third act. This was the part of this long, harrowing tale of me hooking up, and looking for love, and having my heart broken where things should have been resolving, even if that was just within myself.
But things weren’t resolving. There was no climax or big end in sight. Everything in my heart seemed to be at a plateau, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could stand the same scenery from my cliff. I was ready for something different — not with anyone specific, not even anything specific. But I was ready for something other than the same time loop I’d been stuck in that broke my heart over-and-over. So, as to keep from worrying any further, at least for right now, I grabbed the half-empty (second) bottle of wine and looked at him, “Let’s go smoke some weed.”
This is it, y’all. Act III.
As Per the Usual, Pt. I
Less Than Butterflies, No. 29
And now we’ve arrived at the third act — the part of the story that’s supposed to carry us home by noble steed into the sunset.
Inevitably … it will not.
“So you wrote about me?” Ricky asked me as he struggled with great futility to get the tire lock off of his car.
My lies immediately kicked in and took over not only my words, but my facial expressions and my body language. I was good at that. When confronted with some truth I was not ready to acknowledge — at least not to another — I was fully capable of playing the fool and lying. After all, I’d grown accustomed to denying all my real feelings. And that’s just where this story had landed me. As per the usual, in my feelings.
“What are you talking about?” I asked him, eyes narrowed and nose a bit wrinkled.
He didn’t break his gaze — in his subtle yet undeniable determination, Ricky was going to get the truth out of me.
… or so he thought.
“I’m ‘Ricky’ in Less Than Butterflies. Right?”
Ha. Aha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
It wasn’t going to be that easy.
Act III, ladies and gentlemen.
As per the usual, gay culture was ruining my fucking life. Gay culture, at least in the macro, is supposed to be about tolerance and acceptance and the ability to feel like you belong somewhere when the world has turned you away over-and-over again because of who you are. But gay culture is also a pastiche of incongruities — lines that do not run parallel to one another and that intersect and continue on rather than running a course together. After all, if you aren’t fit, traditionally beautiful, and ready to pop a fan and dance after brunch at the Rosemont, you aren’t in the club. You have to look a certain way, you have to behave a certain way, and you have to think a certain way. The time when queer people were known for their taste and flair has gone. We’ve bitten so deep into the apple of our ability to make uncool things cool that we’ve accidentally eaten the core, chewed, and spit back out exclusivity in its place.
Gay culture is a lot of good things; it’s knowing how to make a family out of friends; it’s understanding that there is beauty in things that others might not at first notice; it’s doing things to spite social norms and cues. But it’s also a lot of bad things; it’s not getting noticed so long as there’s some cuter, younger, vapid twink standing beside you at the bar; it’s not being sure whether someone likes you, or whether you’re just a friend; it’s thinking that you’ve evolved past gay culture, only to more subtly perpetuate its bad behaviors.
Enter literally every single man I’ve written about in this column.
“This is my friend, Anthony,” drag queen extraordinaire Ondi introduced me to a stranger. “We both love white men who emotionally abuse us.”
I nodded to the white stranger and extended a hand to shake. “Especially circumcised ones, or Jews.” As most men do when I’m talking, the stranger only nodded his head and walked away. Ondi followed after him.
“You need to stop falling in love with your friends,” my friend Cooper told me.
“Who?!” I asked, honestly shocked. “Ondi?”
“No, not Ondi, you imbecile,” he snapped. “Ricky.” I looked around the patio to make sure Ricky wasn’t around. We were perched atop a picnic table outside of some dive bar where we’d gone to see Ondi in one of Beck’s performance art drag shows. Beck’s shows were always a breath of fresh air from normal drag shows in Houston, because they incorporated drag queens who strayed from the type of drag most of us got used to seeing on stage at Rich’s or Hamburger Mary’s. Ondi was known for being a bit aberrant in her drag because she was a bit more artistic than a lot of other drag queens, but nevertheless a hell of a queen to watch. Currently, she was standing in line for tacos between shows and taking a selfie like the true garbage fire that she was.
“I’M NOT FALLING IN LOVE WITH ANYONE!” I unnecessarily shouted over my shoulder as I snapped a photo of Ondi taking a picture of herself. “Oh, she’s gonna hate this picture,” I said as I uploaded the photo of Ondi to Snapchat. “It’s perfect.” Ondi and I had been in a longstanding feud ever since I stole her phone at a party and updated her Facebook status to say, “I’m in a feud with Anthony Ramirez,” because I was bored.
Ricky, whom Cooper was referring to, was another friend of ours that he’d once slept with and whom I’d been spending a great deal of my time with over the last several weeks. Therein laid the trickiness of it: Ricky and I had been hanging out … and we’d been hanging out a lot. To the point where other men were sending me text messages asking who this Ricky person was. Suffice it to say, they weren’t entirely sure I was being honest when I’d reply to them something dismissive and flippant like, “Lol. A friend of mine.”
And he was! That’s all he was! He was just a friend. But that was another issue with gay culture: two men couldn’t be friends and not be sleeping together. And as much as I’d have liked to have proven that stigma to be wrong … I had to be honest enough with myself to say that, in fact, I did have a bad habit of developing feelings for my friends. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t happening just a little bit with Ricky, too. It’s a stupid thing to let happen, you know. After all, time-and-time again I’ve fallen into this downward circle of getting close to someone and not being able to segregate friendly feelings from romantic ones. I could psychoanalyze this all right now, but what would be the point, really? After all, I’ve been doing that over the course of this entire series and clearly to no avail. But the fact of the matter was that I was not falling in love with Ricky. Having feelings was one thing — it was too early to even really tell what those feelings were. Falling in love with someone I couldn’t have … I’d been there, all to recently, even. I wasn’t ready to do that again. Besides, I was having fun, and Ricky was a nice enough guy to be friends with. I needed to let that be enough for right now.
I had to.
Let us harken back to Ezra, my wonderful, asexual friend whom I also fell in love with. That was awkward. Months and months had gone by with me pining over someone I realistically knew that I couldn’t ever have. And then there was Peter — the man-turned-emotional affair that I let turn my life upside down and inside out who had also started out as just my friend. To be honest, most of my relationships and my not-relationships started off that way. And I’m sorry, but that isn’t exactly my fault. It’s gay culture, dummies. Gay culture sets us up to not have any sort of social cues about dating and lays carpet over the line that separates it from friendships. It doesn’t help that most gay people sleep with their other gay people friends. It’s gross and highly unhealthy, I know. But that doesn’t make it any less true. So what do we do? We meet new people and we spend time with them; then we flirtatiously hold hands or steal cheek kisses or snuggle up next to one another watching movies and drinking cheap Trader Joe’s wine and inevitably we find ourselves sad and lonely over some other guy who’s broken our hearts until we fall into the arms (and assholes) of our friends.
I could see Ricky quite clearly — who he was he presented to people without hesitation, but also without apology. He was cute, and he was smart, and he came with a lot of passion, the likes of which I hadn’t met in a person in a very long time. He was insightful and observant, someone who watched others and picked out clumps of coal before dusting them off into diamonds. It was something remarkable, really. Few people had that kind of foresight. He was definitely someone I was eager to get to know upon meeting him, someone I could tell needed people who wanted to get to know him. He was friendly, he was kind, and he would break my heart if I wasn’t careful.
He would break my heart if I wasn’t careful.
I turned back to Cooper. “You’re so stupid. You don’t know anything.”
“Anthony,” Cooper said as he pulled a joint out of his backpack, lit it, took a hit, and then passed it to me. Apparently everyone was just smoking weed everywhere since the City of Houston had made it less illegal to be caught with small amounts. Burn away the evidence, why don’t we? So, I took a hit, too. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, smoke their weed. “I love you, but you are way better than Peter,” he said. Peter, Peter, Peter. How the fuck was I supposed to really get closure and move on from that guy if my friends kept bringing him up? Cooper was right, though — I was so much better than that guy. “Just like when Justin and I broke up and you said that I was better than him.”
I exhaled and hacked up a lung due to the enormous hit I’d just taken off the joint. “Yeah, but …” I choked. “I didn’t mean it when I said it to you.” More coughing. “That’s just what you say to someone after a breakup.”
“Wow,” he said as he snatched his joint back away from me. “Why are you such a fucking pendeja?”
“Yo no se, bitch,” I told him as I downed the remainder of my mezcal margarita. “But I appreciate you saying that, and it’s very sweet. I just know that this thing with Ricky is not the same as the thing with Peter. First of all, I’m not in love with Ricky. I barely know him.”
“You’ve been together almost every single day since you met,” he added.
“Secondly,” I snapped, “I’m doing exactly the thing with Ricky that I said I was doing when we discussed this last week and that I didn’t do with Peter.”
“That was a really confusing sentence. What thing are you doing? … Or … not doing?”
I looked up and found Ondi prancing back from the taco line with a boat full of Mexican food in her beach ball-inspired, Katy Perry-esque outfit and blonde wig. She honestly gave all of us Latinas a bad name.
I turned back to Cooper as Ondi as the smell of Ondi or her food nauseated me. “I’m just riding it out to see where it goes.”
Ondi shoved a giant taco in her mouth and then said through a mouthful of food, “You’re always riding something.”
As per the usual — or at least as of late — I was stuck in my own head trying not to have a feeling, all while pretending not to be hungry because I didn’t want anyone to notice I’d gained like 6 pounds in the last two weeks. The latter really is a separate issue for later.
I looked over at Ricky as he talked and my own thoughts drowned out his words.
Do I have a crush on him?
I was trying my very hardest to listen to whatever story it was that Ricky was telling me about his day at work. He’d been a financial consultant — whatever the fuck that meant — since college and he literally never stopped talking about it.
In addition to the dulling of his voice thanks to my own inner-monologue, I also couldn’t get Cooper’s voice out of my head telling me not to be such a dumb bitch and to stop falling in love with every man that pranced in and out of my life. It felt mildly racist coming from a white man, to be honest; but I was willing to overlook that part. It wouldn’t be so bothersome if it were not for the fact that I actually wasn’t falling in love with anyone. But now the idea was stuck in my stupid fucking brain, and I was beginning to doubt all my certainties that I’d pre-established before Cooper had gone and opened his stupid fucking mouth.
God, I hate him.
He is very attractive. That actually may be the part that spoils all of this. I hated to think that way, but it was true. Even if it turned out that I was crushing on Ricky, he was waaaaay out of my league. Grown-up and outside of the gay scene more now, Ricky had seemed to evolved of twinkdom, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much of that superficiality or vapidness might still remain that hadn’t evaporated with the bulk of it. Even a little bit would be too much.
But do I like him? These were two separate questions. He was, after all, very smart as well. And driven. And passionate. These were things I wasn’t used to seeing in the men around me — specifically not the ones for which I developed feelings.
“What do you wanna do?” he asked as we drove around the city aimlessly. Maybe he’d finally caught onto the fact that I hadn’t been listening to him. I wish I’d been paying at least some attention so that I’d have some springboard from which to jump. But nooooo. I had to go harping on internally and psychotically about whether or not I might like him. Factor into that Cooper’s dumb voice ringing in the background telling me not to fall in love with Ricky, who I’d otherwise had no plans of falling in love with, and you’d find that I was beginning to suffer a migraine.
WHY ARE MY FRIENDS CONSTANTLY RUINING MY LIFE?!
“I don’t know,” I told him. “It’s 80-degrees outside in the middle of January,” I told him. “Think there are any water parks open?”
I think a part of why I was stressing about all of this had less to do with whether or not I was going to end up falling for Ricky and more to do with the fact that I wanted to know what he thought was going on between us. Truth be told, and if my track record had anything to show worth proving, he probably didn’t think anything of it other than the fact that we were two people hanging out and having a good time together. After all, that’s all I really ever was to anyone, wasn’t it? Friendship after friendship, relationship after relationship, I was constantly being pigeonholed to “friend” before things ever got to serious. It happened with Ezra — granted, he was an asexual, aromantic — and it happened with Peter. It even happened with my last truly serious boyfriend, Parker, when he told me he didn’t think I was marriage material — only for me to find out he was engaged to someone else a short six months later. These were just the more recent examples! It had happened with everyone else in between, before, and probably still would after.
It kind of sucked, y’all. I was smart and funny. I had lots of wisdom to impart and wit to interject. But I also had a taste for men who wanted to treat me like shit all of the time and who seemed incapable of reciprocating my feelings. Wasn’t that telling? Here I was at a huge crux in my life, a place where I had come out of something truly terrible; now was the time for me to decide how I was going to proceed with relationships for the rest of my life so that I didn’t have to put myself through what I’d gone through with Peter with anyone else ever again. And for fuck’s sake, I really was not up for an existential crisis that day while sitting next to someone I barely knew. So, yeah, I’d say it was pretty telling. The only thing that had ever been more telling about me than that was the time I’d accidentally spilled my messenger bag all over the floor of Starbucks and revealed to a Tinder date that I was actually 10lbs heavier than I was.
I don’t remember what we ended up doing that day. We probably got drunk or high or something. What I do remember were the little things that happened. I remember the stolen glances; the smiles and whats that followed. I remember how he’d kissed my cheek when he dropped me off at my car and I’d waited until he’d pulled out of the parking lot to go inside the bar where it’d been parked. I remember a few weekends before when we’d been sleeping on a pull-out on vacation and he’d farted in the middle of the night, woke up long enough to giggle, then rolled over to go back to sleep and how hard I’d laughed at that. I remember how stuck my mouth felt in a stupid, slight gape when he’d talked about other boys — how my face got splotchy and red and my mouth went dry because the pang of jealousy in my stomach had paralyzed me. I remember the feelings that I, in fact, was having. Moreover, I recognized them. I recognized them as the early stages of starting to really like someone. But what I remember most, is wishing I’d just said something; but letting my Hard Cocks School of Gay Culture tell me that I probably shouldn’t — that I should just ride it out.
I was growing so tired of riding things out.
Thank U, Next
Less Than Butterflies, No. 28
“So are you gonna write about me?” Ricky asked as he pulled the sheet off of me just a little bit more and ran his toes up my calf beneath it.
Sheepishly I turned my face toward the window and pulled the bedsheet back a bit. “What do you mean?”
Ricky laughed — loudly, incriminatingly — as if he were in on some secret I wasn’t. Only … I was. “In your column,” he went on. “Don’t think I didn’t do my homework before bringing you home.” He slid himself upright and reached over me for a bottle of wine on the floor next to me before taking a sip and handing it to me. “I know who you are.”
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
“What’s it called again?” he asked. “Butterflies?”
“Less Than Butterflies,” I corrected him.
To my knowledge, I’d never slept with a man who’d read Less Than Butterflies before that night. Or, at the very least, I’d never slept with one who’d read it and had the nerve to bring it up. I tried to wash the terror from my face and distract him with a laugh; only he wouldn’t take his eyes off of me until I answered. So I reached into the pocket of my jeans on the hardwood floor beside me and grabbed a pack of Marlboros and a lighter, placing one between my lips and rolling my eyes.
I pulled the sheet back toward me to cover my mid-section, embarrassed about how I could have lost so much weight and still have felt fat. “I don’t know if the sex was that good.”
I blew a puff of smoke in his face and laughed.
🦋 A Week Before 🦋
I sat in the Starbucks at Montrose and Hawthorne filling out paperwork and editing articles while also making eyes with a 30-something-year-old man sitting at a table adjacent to me that kept looking up from his pretentious copy of the New York Times so that his jawline could poke out over the scarf he unnecessarily wore inside — Lemme see that neck, daddy. I’d heard him order a tea at the counter while I sipped a peppermint mocha and I swear to Satan he would have been less conspicuous if he’d just cut two eye holes in the goddamn paper. After suggestively nodding my head toward the bathroom when our eyes met and watching him dash off that way, I packed my personal effects into my messenger bag and swiftly exited the building without any intention of meeting him in the restroom. I’d find myself down the street at the Half-Price Books where I’d avert my gaze from the collected works of Jane Austen — have you ever read Jane Austen, guys? Where men were at least kind of chivalrous even when they were breaking hearts — and a cute young man squatted down on the ground looking at a book at the bottom of the same shelf. Feigning clumsiness, I let the book slip out of my hands and down beside him, then dropped to the ground at his eye level to pick it up. He turned and caught my eye as I slid the book back into my hands and smiled at him. “Hi,” I muttered, to which he smiled back and introduced himself to me.
That’s right, y’all. 2019 had officially begun, Peter was a distant memory of my past and I was officially back on my bullshit. I wasn’t making resolutions, I wasn’t trying to lose more weight, I wasn’t promising to go back to the gym, I wasn’t even going to work hard at giving up bad habits like smoking or falling in love. 2019 brought with it only one new rule, which was more a rule for the men in my life than it was for me:
Don’t fuck with me.
“I’m moving on from sadness and being in love so that I can go back to my old ways,” I told Jackie on speaker phone later that night as I struggled to try and sync my work email to my iPhone.
“Exactly,” I went on. “I do not need a man to — damn it!” The email server, once again, failed to connect to my phone. “I don’t need a man in my life to be successful or to get anything done.” I tried syncing it once more. “I am completely independ— motherfucker!” Yet again, it failed to connect.
“What are you swearing at?” Jackie asked.
“I’m trying to get my phone to sync to my work email, but I can’t figure this shit out. Peter was supposed to do it for me the last 80 times I saw him, and then we both kept forgetting, and then he treated me like shit, and then he left me at a bar, and then he left at a club, and then we fought, and then I never heard from him again because he disappeared from my life without ever taking the fucking time to set my email up on my phone.” I sighed. “Fucking bastard.”
Jackie hesitated. “What was that you were just saying about not needing a man to help you do anything?”
I dropped my phone on the counter. “Fuck off, Jackie.”
It was the best of times … it was the worst of times. I was pleasantly surprised with just how well I’d been dealing with the loss of what was probably one of the greatest loves and romances of my life; but a constant disappointment in men will help one cope with these things quicker as time goes by. After all, it started off at a young age when my father left me alone with drug-addicted mother to develop some deep-seated daddy issues, and it landed here with me falling in love with and having my heart broken by a man I called ‘daddy’.
Jesus I am one fucked up individual.
Nevertheless, she persisted; and she was me, in this particular instance.
Of all the resolutions I wasn’t making in 2019, I had compiled a list of rules I was laying down like infants for a nap that would from this point on be applicable to all the men I dated in the future:
I am the Whore thy Gay, which have graced thee with my presence, and who will hopefully get thee to participate in bondage.
- Thou shalt have no other guys before me.
- Thou shalt not make any graven image (i.e. making less money than me or being in the closet)
- Thou shalt not have better looks, talents, or wisdom than the Whore thy Gay who is vain.
- Remember my birthday and keep it holy.
- Dishonor my father and mother.
- Thou shalt not kill my roll when I do Molly.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery or even suggest the idea of an open relationship, because if thou wishes to date more than one person, I’ll go off my meds and you’ll get to meet all sorts of new people.
- Thou shalt not get mad when I steal thy credit card.
- Thou shalt not bear adult ADD.
- Thou shalt do cocaine, but not to the point of addiction.
I mean it — I’d given up on men. And why shouldn’t I have? If this stupid column indicates any sort of track record, signs would point to it being time for me to stop trying. I mean between Parker who could commit and Dylan who voted for Trump and Ezra the asexual and Peter who was just an all-around raging douchebag from his own circle of hell, it seemed as though the Universe of the Fates or the Gods or the Dark Lord Satan was telling me to give the fuck up. And did it even really matter anymore? At this point it was fuck off or get fucked over, and most encounters seemed to end in the former, at least in my experience thus far.
But then I met Ricky. And from the time I’d dropped that book in front of him at Half Price Books to the first time we’d hung out one-on-one — as per the usual — all that internal training on how I should be interacting with men in the new year seemed as impossible to reach as a baseball thrown over the neighbor’s fence.
I walked into his Montrose-adjacent apartment expecting what I usually did with my one-time hook-ups: traipsing dog hair, a lack of furniture, and not a book in sight. But what I found was quite the converse — it was like an island oasis in a sea of gay sharks who couldn’t get their shit together. It was like walking into a den of spirituality, a Mecca of literature, and a congress of apropos, grown-upisms.
“So how was the date with Ricky?” Gwen asked the next afternoon in the hammock chairs on her porch.
“It wasn’t a date,” I told her with a roll of my eyes. I grabbed the Bic sitting on the table between us and lit the cigarette between my lips.
“Hoookay,” she replied as she rolled her own eyes and chuckled a bit to herself.
“The not-date was lovely. We hung out, drank a little vodka, smoked a little weed,” I laughed and took a hit off the joint she’d rolled. “And then he played a song on his guitar he’d been writing and my heart melted a little and that was enough to make my pants dematerialize altogether,” I confessed. “God, the sex was good.”
Gwen could have exploded with all the laughter she’d been holding in, weed smoke spewing everywhere. “Praise Satan!” she exclaimed.
“Praise Satan, indeed,” I agreed as I took another hit. “He did ask me something that made me a little uncomfortable, though,” I told her.
“I’ve told you that you’ve just got to learn to be more forthcoming about you STDs.”
“I don’t have any STDs! Shut up!” I shook my head. “No, he asked me whether or not I was going to write about him in my column. Apparently he did his homework.”
“And he still invited you over?”
“So this wasn’t a date. Huh?”
I grinned a little. “Fuck off, Gwen.”
“Play another,” I requested as I laid against the hardwood and sipped the Pinot Grigio from my stemless glass. His apartment looked like the type of place I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life, which is a largely important factor for me when vetting potential suitors. Solid wood floors, bookshelves lining every wall, artwork hung that seemed to be glaring at me as I passed. “I’m high. I could do this all day.” Ricky was strumming his guitar — in the nude, nonetheless — and I was lying on the ground in a sheet like Carrie Bradshaw between her Mr. Big punctuations.
It was a weird thing — fucking on someone’s hardwood, living room floor and sipping iced vodkas from stemless wine glasses while he played me music on his guitar. It was the kind of not-date I’d never had with a man … and I’d had a lot. Something that started as a casual book drop — okaaayyy; not so casual considering I’d basically just created my own meet-cute —had turned into hours of fucking against the cold, January floors and me not accidentally shouting out Peter’s name. But more than that, it was nice to be around someone and not have to give a shit about whether or not we were on a date. It was a breath of fresh air to not have to fish for topics to discuss with a man; it was a relief to not feel self-conscious as a man stripped me of my clothing; and then to just be done — and to not feel the obligation to stay or leave — as the smell of candles wafted in and out of my nose and fingers traced the small of my back between songs … it was nice.
“So are you gonna write about me?”
And after the what do you mean? and the I know who you ares and the poking fun at him, telling him the sex wasn’t good enough, and the tugging of the sheet back to cover my midsection, I finally giggled out, “Yeah … I’m gonna write about this.”
As I sat at the bar later with Hope and some friends I didn’t get to see often enough, I thought of Ricky and the fun I’d had with him. I thought of his question and his music and I thought about whether or not it would turn out to be anything. Even if it didn’t, the reprieve and reminder that I was a desirable human being had been nice. I wasn’t feeling as if I should push my luck, because I kind of just wanted to see where things went. But a moment later, all of that was interrupted, when a push notification came to my phone and I found myself staring at a Facebook comment in which Peter had tagged me. It was a joke, an olive branch extended after weeks and weeks of not speaking to one another and after an uncertain lack of closure. And it made me mad — the whole thing made me mad. The fact that he had the nerve to think that I’d just be so willing to jump back to the way things were — snide comments and funny banter — after what he’d done, after he’d neglected to apologize because he didn’t see anything wrong with the way he’d behaved — it was fucking insulting.
So as I debated on whether or not to even dignify his comment with a response, I was at that very moment greeted by first an email from my now-synced work account and a text message from Ricky.
And I smiled, double-tapping the home button on my iPhone to close my Facebook app, and whispered to myself, “Thank you.” I opened Ricky’s text message. “Next.”
Don’t Fly Away Without Me, Peter Pan, Pt. III
Less Than Butterflies, No. 27
Woke up feeling heavy-hearted.
I’m going back to where I started.
The morning rain.
I’d resolved to keep our friendship strictly friendship, and I was doing okay at it. Sure, there were moments when I would fall silent because I was getting anxious about something that I had no control over. Maybe it was seeing him talking to another guy, or maybe it was the conversations with his boyfriend I’d overhear him having on the phone in the car. It was always something and it was always difficult to cope with. Still, I’d made a point of trying to not let him see as much of that so that we could enjoy our time together as friends, because I did believe that he deserved our friendship just as much as I wanted to maintain it. There’s comfort in normalcy, but there’s also discomfort in desire.
The issue of Peter’s popularity was one of the things that made me most anxious; and I’ll admit that my jealousy of his behavior with his other friends didn’t help quell those fires when they ignited. Peter was the type of person who thrived off of being social. Moreover, he was the type of person who liked to have a good time partaking in recreational drinking and the like. I was also someone who enjoyed such proclivities, but I will admit that I also have social anxiety that usually leads to me taking time to sit by myself in a corner or smoking a cigarette on a patio alone. It isn’t necessarily that anything has upset me. It’s not being upset at all. Sometimes, I need to just recharge my batteries a bit. Often as well, I don’t have quite the stamina for partying that Peter does. Where he can go for hours on-end without batting an eye, I need rest and alone time in order to have another go at it.
A lot of times, I think this leads Peter to think I’m upset in social situations. While sometimes I am, the most recent time I saw him that was not the case. We’d been out partying for four straight days, and a few times I just needed to reel myself back in a little. We’d gone out to a few bars the third night that we were spending this time together and Peter was excited to celebrate the birthday of his friend, Marcus, whom I was a bit jealous of, as well. That’s the problem with spending time with Peter’s other friends for me. It isn’t necessarily that I don’t like them. In fact, I like Marcus a lot. It’s more to the point that I know for certain that he’s slept with most of them — Marcus included — and being the one person in his life that he hasn’t slept with and seeing the people that he has slept with interact with him reminds me that he doesn’t feel quite as strongly for me as he does for them.
With Marcus, this was especially true. Marcus was freshly 21 and had that boy next door look that I knew Peter fancied. He’d been friends with Peter a bit longer than I, but their relationship dynamic was completely different than hours. Peter was attracted to Marcus, and maybe Marcus was or had been to Peter, as well; but Marcus was busy living his best life and was well-involved in other men most of the time. Still, when Peter was around and Marcus had the time for him, he was the Apple of Peter’s Eye. No one, myself especially, mattered. But it wasn’t just Marcus that could make Peter behave this way. There was a harem of boys like this that Peter slighted everyone else for. Marcus, Chance, and that weekend an old friend — the ex of Chance’s that also excommunicated to Peter when he and Chance parted ways so long ago — Wesley. These boys were Peter’s weak spot. When it came to them, if he’d decided upon something, that was law. Nothing could or would change his mind.
And that royally blows, dude.
Because, if we’re being honest, I’d do anything for that man. And that’s not to say that his other friends wouldn’t nor that they haven’t. But right here, right now, in the present, I’m the one doing it. And, of course, Peter does more than his fair share of kindnesses for me; again, I don’t take any of that for granted. But it’s all goes back to the little things; like making sure he doesn’t aspirate vomit in his sleep and die after he’s been rolling on Molly all night; like making sure he stays hydrated after we’ve been out partying our assess off; like staying in constant touch with him so that he knows that his friends here at home still care about him; even visiting him now that he lives out of state more times than I’ve ever visited someone in my life because he didn’t have many friends there when he first moved.
And I know those things sound trivial; and I know that at every point in his life one of his other friends has done one of those other things for him; but when I’m doing it in the present, I’m not asking for a pat on the back. I’m asking for someone to care about me as much. I’m asking for it not to be an expectation from me if I can’t expect it from him.
That’s why when he visited not too long ago, and we were out at the bars and he was caught up in Marcus, I kind of hung back from the group as they got much drunker than I did. But it’s also why I was so hurt when we were walking down the road approaching the Eagle, and Chance said he’d instead like to go Ripcord, and Peter looked at me and said, “Could you just go to Ripcord with Chance for a minute?”
I stopped cold.
“What?” I demanded.
“I just need to talk to Marcus for a minute,” he explained without really explaining anything at all.
“And you need an entire bar to yourself for that?”
“Don’t be a dick about it,” he said with a roll of his eyes.
“Go fuck yourself,” I called back as I moved ahead without him.
I did go with Chance, because I didn’t feel like fighting anymore. I got drunker there and soon Peter had sent me a message apologizing (in his way) with no further explanation other than the fact that he needed to talk to Marcus and that he’d come find me in a few minutes. But those minutes turned into an hour, and I’d lost Chance somewhere in the bar and was now drunk out of my mind and alone at a bar in Montrose. And like I’ve said here before, for anyone who has ever been drugged in a bar, taken from one, and raped, this sort of situation heightens your anxieties to new heights you didn’t know they could ascend to. It makes you paranoid and afraid and ready to bolt because you’re genuinely petrified thinking that someone might snag you from around the corner, and that you’ll end up back in that empty apartment wearing torn clothes and so much pain ripping you in half that you want to be dead. But people who haven’t been raped don’t understand that fear. People who haven’t been raped don’t understand what it truly feels like to want to be dead because you don’t own your body anymore. Someone has taken it from you.
Peter didn’t understand my paralyzing fear that night. He knew my story, but he chose to keep that tucked well out of mind so he could run off with someone cuter.
Sure, I’m a big kid. I can take care of myself. But I’d gone there with Peter with no other expect that he wouldn’t abandon me in a bar that night. We’d taken an Uber to the bars, and I had no car, no keys to the apartment, and not a clue what I was doing because I was drunk out of my mind.
So when I could feel my legs again, I left the bar and darted to the streets of Montrose in tears. It didn’t help that my mood stabilizers were in a prescription bottle that had been emptied by one of the random guests that came to party at the apartment the night before, but now I was so drunk I could barely work my phone and I had no idea where my so-called friend was. Another thirty minutes went by, and all I could do was sit upon a bench outside of Barnaby’s because I had no idea where to go or what to do. When Peter finally texted me again asking where I was and inviting me to join everyone at JR’s, I was beside myself.
The second night that it happened, and the very next night, I wasn’t even given an explanation, but I knew why.
I knew why when he’d gasped in the back of our Uber on the way to Hamburger Mary’s, and he’d told me his friend Avery was coming out with us. I knew when I asked him if that was a bad thing and replied, “No. It’s a very, very good thing.” I knew when he’d rushed us out of the restaurant, and when he’d pushed past me at the door of Rich’s where we were to celebrate Marcus’s birthday and where neither of us had to pay a cover, and I knew when I didn’t see him again for what felt like ever.
The group accompanying us was upwards of twenty-five in total. I certainly hadn’t been in a bad mood, even considering what had happened the night before. That being said, I was a bit quieter around all of the pretty strangers than I would have been around people that I’d known better. Nevertheless, I was trying to enjoy myself as my roll on Molly began, and I was doing so without interceding in Peter’s celebration of Marcus’s birthday. I didn’t want to seem like the lovesick puppy following Peter around, and I certainly didn’t want to do or say anything that was going to stop him from enjoying himself while we were there. And unlike he always had before, Peter didn’t tug me along in stride, neither literally nor metaphorically.
All the same, I did enjoy conversations with a few of the guests whom I knew. There was Paige, Marcus’s roommate and a fan of mine that sat with me and sweetly complimented my writing as we watched Peter dance alone. At one point she pulled me in close and asked me, “Are you and Peter a couple?”
At first I was so shocked that she would ask this that I wasn’t quite sure what to say or think about it.
“No,” I finally let out in a quick breath with a stern shake of my head. “No, we’re just friends,” I told her. She nodded her head and watched him a bit more closely.
“It’s not my place to say this,” she shouted over the music, “But that’s probably a good thing.”
I knew that Paige was drunk, but I hadn’t thought she was that drunk.
“What do you mean?” I asked her, not really sure why we were even having this conversation.
“Well … I love him to death, and I’ve only hung out with him a handful of times, but …” She shook her head and kept watching him. “If it were me, and I was in love someone like Peter who loves this side of life so much, it would be heartbreaking. It would be hard for me to trust him someone that I was never sure was fully mine. You know?”
I did know. Still, I asked, “What makes you think I’m in love with Peter?”
She didn’t respond, but I knew.
What I did not know was that Paige was not going to be the last person to ask if Peter and I were a couple that night. In fact … a dozen other people would.
“He’s a good man,” I told her as I smiled up at him, watching him dance onthe person I later discovered to be his friend Avery, which made my stomach churn as if I’d just swallowed glass.
As I was smoking outside on the patio, an old friend named Stephen I hadn’t seen in several months approached me with a smile. He, too, was rolling on Molly and came up to say hello and chat for a while. After catching up, we made our rounds around the club and hung out for a little while, danced on the patio with strangers, and my roll was finally starting to hit its stride. When we glanced over and saw Peter talking to a group of friends, in the corner, Stephen smiled at me and said, “I saw your man here and I figured you couldn’t be far.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. I wanted to object further, but I wasn’t much of a talker when I was on Molly.
I stared off at Peter and watched him laugh, which made me smile. But like most things with Peter seemed to be for me, the smile was fleeting. He still hadn’t said a word to me all night, except once to ask me for Molly and then again shortly after to ask me for another. He’d not stopped to talk to me since the moment we walked in the doors of the club. The second time I’d pulled him into a bathroom stall to give it to him, his voice was so agitated with me and I didn’t understand why.
“What’s the matter with you? Why are you being so hostile to me?”
“I’m not! I’m just trying to have a good time with my friends.”
“I’m not trying to stop you; but there’s no reason for you to be hateful to me,” I told him.
“Okay,” he said before turning around in the stall with a roll of his eyes and waltzing away.
Staring at him across the patio, I wondered yet again what it was about me that was so terrible that I didn’t even get a ‘hello’ around these other friends of his. I’d even texted him twice to try to initiate some sort of contact between the two of us when I wasn’t sure where he was — once to ask if he’d find me a cigarette because I’d lost my pack somewhere on the dance floor and my vision was too blurry to stand, and again to jokingly tell him not to do anything stupid and lighten the mood. He never responded to either.
“You love him,” Stephen said. “Don’t you?”
I sputtered out a long train of smoke before before looking back Stephen. “Yeah,” I told him as I dropped the cigarette butt to the ground and squashed it beneath my shoe. “I do love him.”
That cigarette butt might as well have been my heart.
The morning rain …
🦋 🦋 🦋
And though I wish that you were here
on this same old road that brought me here,
it’s calling me home.
Stephen and I danced until well past two in the morning and I let boys touch me, but tired of it quickly. The entire time as the crowd thinned, I kept my eyes peeled for everyone, certain that they’d be ready to leave soon. However, right around three, I became curious to see that our booth had been cleared out and cleaned and quickly realized that, indeed, Peter had left me behind. I pulled out my phone to text him, but my messages weren’t going through, likely due to his phone being dead. Instead I messaged Chance, who luckily was only a few feet away but heading out the door himself. That same anxiety from the night before came creeping back up inside of me.
Still I understood that I am an adult capable of taking care of myself. But that didn’t give my best friend the right to abandon me knowing my abandonment issues already when he were my ride and when he did so without any sort of notice. My heart raced as it sunk out of my chest and into the pit of my stomach and my vision blurred as sweat poured down my forehead and chest and neck. The man who I once felt safest with and like nothing could ever touch me when I was with him had left me abandoned and alone for the second night in a row. One of the only people that knew that was exactly how the story of my rape began — alone in a bar — did that to me. And why?
No, really. I’m asking.
To make matters worse came a text message from Bertha a couple of days later, one that read, “Fuck Peter. I asked him where you were when I saw him leaving, and he just said ‘I don’t know’ and kept walking.”
I was so upset reading that message as I was driving to the store for cigarettes that I had to pull over on the side of the road. There I bent at the waist into a ninety degree angle and hurled into the grass. There was nothing in my stomach but water and the weight of how foolish I felt for believing in this man so much.
When Chance and I finally got back to the apartment a few minutes later, I was met with a mass of people I did not know with Peter staring directly at the door when I walked in. He didn’t say a word to me until later when I asked where the car keys were and he again spoke to me as if I’d just killed his mother. When he looked at me through those eyes that once made me feel safe and at home, I didn’t feel that way anymore. They seemed angry, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. Certainly it had taken me a minute to get to my social point while at the club, but I hadn’t been standing in the way of anyone else having a good time. I hadn’t been the one who had left someone else there to have an after-party rager with a bunch of people who didn’t give a damn about him and to possibly get my dick wet from someone I hadn’t seen in ages. I had just been minding my own business, talking to my friends and dancing with them because I wanted to enjoy myself, too.
That whole night he avoided saying anything to me, and I soon cleared everyone out of the bedroom so that I could go to sleep. I wept that night probably just as much as I did in that entire week after we’d nearly slept together. When I woke to the sun beaming through the shades a few hours later, haunted by strangers asking me if Peter was my boyfriend and the image of boys taking him by the hand and leading him around the apartment, my heart sank when I rolled over and saw he wasn’t there next to me where he had been for the last three nights. I soon began to panic, my mind shooting into the anxiety of being left behind again, but as I stepped out into the living room and saw him sleeping on the couch alone, I calmed down some. I walked over to the couch and stood over him, noticing there was only an hour left ‘til we had to check out of the AirBNB. I rubbed his feet and shook his legs some while whispering his name and trying to get him to wake up, but it was of no use. He’d fallen into a very deep sleep after four days of partying like a rock star faced with his own mortality.
Instead I took to clearing up all the plastic cups off of the floors and tables, throwing trash away, and setting dishes in the sink to be washed. When there was nothing left except the dishes to be put in the dishwasher, I left those aside and tried waking him up once more. It was still a futile effort; so I smoked a cigarette on the patio and went back to bed, wishing he’d at least gotten up and come to lay down with me. When he woke me later in a hurry to get out because he had overslept, I didn’t even bother telling him that I’d tried waking him before. I just collected our things with him, put my stuff in my suitcase and his things in his, did a last check to make sure everything looked as it had when we’d arrived, and followed him out the door to his car.
As much as I wanted to ask what he was doing for the rest of the day before he made the long drive home, I didn’t. I still wasn’t sure what I’d done to make him so angry with me the night before. Maybe he’d taken those texts to mean I was upset about something, when the reality was quite the opposite. I’d just been enjoying my roll a little more lowkey than he had been. I almost always did. He’d been doing his own thing and I hadn’t tried to stop him. That’s what he loved to do: party and have fun. He was a responsible adult with an amazing career and esteem by the mile. But in his heart, there was a little part of him that was still just a kid who wanted to take flights of fancy and ignore the rest of the world, like Peter Pan.
I don’t mean that as a fault. I’m the same way sometimes … just differently. I just wish this specific flight didn’t include me getting the evil eye all night long and feeling like the one person I’d grown to love most in the world hates me. Because that’s what I saw in his eyes that night. Hatred.
In an effort to give Peter exactly what he’d wanted, I’d somehow ended up here. And sure, when we parted ways, he hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. But I felt empty because it was clear that something had gone unsaid; only this time, I wasn’t the one who wasn’t saying it.
Calling me home …
When I wrote the rough draft of this story, the next line read, “But it’s okay.” But it’s not okay. It’s never going to be okay. It’s not okay that my mood stabilizers were stolen. It’s not okay that as I was going through my suitcase I found two of my shirts burned and torn apart by God only knows who. It’s not okay that I was forsaken for someone prettier and shinier than me when I have been hemorrhaging love and friendship to this man. It’s not okay that I had some post-traumatic stress reaction to being left behind, or that he left me behind at all and hasn’t even thought to apologize.
It’s not okay that I still love him.
I sent him a text later that last day to let him know that — that I loved him — and to thank him for all the fun we had had over the four days. And there was a lot of it. Dinner for all of our friends, a drag show, Jack-in-the-Box fights between customers and employees, karaoke, bottle service at Guava, late night talks about wanting children, and spending time with one another’s families. It was lovely. I just wish the ending had been lovely, too.
When I said earlier that he was the only man I’d ever been able to see a future with, I meant it. I’ve thought about what it would be like to have a home with him, to have children with him, to dance to a cover of his late grandfather singing a Gershwin song with him at our wedding the way he once told me he wanted to when and if he ever wed. What I’ve felt for this man isn’t based on lust or physical desire. It’s the feeling that he’s good for me, that he made me feel safe, that we could have taken care of each other.
It’s the most honest feeling of being in love I’ve ever felt.
I just wish that when he looked at me — his most loyal devotee — he would look at me through those eyes I fell in love with rather than the ones that seemed to hate the very sight of me and that he could try to picture all of those things, too. But I got hatred from him. And why? I certainly don’t hate him. I know who he is; and I love him for that. Peter Pan has to fly to be who he is; sometimes I just wish I weren’t his Tinkerbell — flying alongside him with ardor and glee, but dead without his attention.
Not everything happens for a reason. Although, I truly hope that all of this will have. Because I really am still trying to be a good friend; and I really do want him to know that I wouldn’t be doing that if he didn’t mean the world to me. And I hope that when he does take those flights, he’ll remember when I’m there with him in tow, and that he’ll remember why I’m there and not fly away without me like he’s done now twice.
I love him.
Why am I not good enough to fly with you anymore, Peter Pan?
I wish I could lay down beside you
when the day is done
and wake up to your face
against the morning sun.
But like every man I’ve known,
you’ll disappear one day.
So I spend my whole life hiding
my heart away.
Don’t Fly Away Without Me, Peter Pan, Pt. II
Less Than Butterflies, No. 27
Then I went on home to my skyscrapers,
neon lights, and waiting papers
that I call home.
The time since that night has been remarkably difficult. I’ve been in love before. Hell … I probably fall in love as often as other people fill up their gas tanks. But I’ve never been in a love like this; and certainly I’ve never been in love with someone for so long and not realized that I was in it, or at least not realized that I’d been taking a slow descent down a hillside ready to hit my head and knock me into the realization at the bottom like some fucked-up, gay version of Jack and Jill. When I did realize what was happening to me, though, I cried for days. I missed this man so much more than I had ever expected to; and I laid in bed at night clinging to a pillow recreating that euphoric moment I could never get out of my head. If I felt the urge to masturbate, I would forgo pornography and simply replay the events of that night in my head until I conjured orgasms I’d never had before. Only I had to stop myself from doing this, because at the moment of each climax, once the ejaculate had left my body, I’d fall back into a stream of tears. Every single time I’ve seen him since I’ve wanted to recreate that perfect night and that perfect day — the dancing and laughing and falling into bed and then just the two of us singing songs in the car, him telling me a story and me smiling gaily back at him as I nod along stupidly like some drunken teenager trying to convince their parents there was no alcohol at the party down the block.
Several times, there were days like it, but the nights of lying in his arms never again afforded themselves. We’d had long talks about boundaries, about how he was still in a relationship, about how it was important just to go back to normal and see what happened. We’d agreed. Still, those perfect days existed; only when I realized I wouldn’t get my perfect nights back, my mood would shift and I wouldn’t be able to completely enjoy them. We went to concerts, we went out drinking, we partied for Halloween, we went to the State Fair, and he even held my hand when I was freaking out halfway through a haunted house. We got to know one another through tarot card readings and stories about his late grandfather and my late grandmother, shared Chinese food in the car outside a restaurant that would only let us order takeaway, and fought like cats and dogs over meaningless, trivial matters that always made me laugh in the end. Every one of those days I spent with him was electrified by magic I’d never felt before.
But with the good came the bad.
Every time we parted ways, it got a little bit harder to leave him behind. Every single time that I found myself overjoyed just to be next to him, I had to remember something that was exquisitely important:
This was not my boyfriend.
Remembering that wasn’t difficult. In fact, I don’t think I ever forgot because I wanted it so badly. But not getting caught up in how we spent our time together and longing for that was much more difficult. When I would take his car to the dealership to get fixed and have to put a secondary phone number down in case he couldn’t be reached, I had to shove away the forethought of doing that for him for the rest of my life. When I met his family at functions for their clan, laughing with his niece and nephew and joking over cigarettes and boxed Cabernet with his sister, I had to stop myself from getting lost in thinking how much I would love to be an actual part of his family. Even cooking for him, watching him get up to get more food after he’d already had his first serving, I thought about what a joy it would be to get to see that every single night. It meant so much to me that someone I felt safe with actually wanted me around. I’d never had that before. Sure, I couldn’t say for sure whether the desire for company came from romance or not, but the requests to fly up to him two weekends in a row made me curious, as did the requests for extended stays once plans were already set.
And then there was the matter of how we handled our friendship. I’ll say this: he tried to be delicate. He was in a relationship with the aforementioned boyfriend still and we were just friends. And after my last trip to see him, I had gotten so angry with him when our time together was almost up and he’d gone home to nap before I left that I flew out of his car in a violent rage and screamed at him across the circle drive. This man I’d just led to a bathroom the night before so he did Molly-vomit all over the floor of the club, this man that leaned forward and tried to kiss me while I sat in a booth trying to respect the boundaries we’d set into place, this man who I’d bought Reese’s cups for and who had wiggled his chocolatey fingers in front of my face once he’d finished them and I had to fight back the urge to lick it off of them — he was leaving me after he’d asked to come that weekend; after he’d begun traipsed off after Chance now that they were friends again and nearly left me stranded more times than a few.
We fought it out later, after I’d flown back home, after I’d had time to let my serotonin readjust from the drugs. And it came up from him then that these feelings I was feeling were one-sided and that what he’d gotten out of that night — out of our friendship — was only just that. Friendship.
It hurt me in a way I’d never been hurt before. I wasn’t angry with him for it; I wasn’t even sure that I could have been if I’d wanted to be, because the reality of it was that if that’s what he said, I had to respect it. But I didn’t have to believe it — and I didn’t. I wasn’t a fool. I wasn’t making this little emotional affair up in my head — everyone else was watching it play out, too. Gwen, Jennifer, Chance, and every social media monger that followed either of us and paid attention. I hadn’t dreamt that that night in the hotel took place, I hadn’t made up that the next night on the phone he’d told me that he’d wanted to have sex, that he was obviously hard, even if he was relieved that we hadn’t done it. I wasn’t making up the requests for more of my time or the way he held my hand or tried to kiss me. That was all real. So, no, I didn’t believe; and on some level, I still don’t. Do I believe that maybe I came to this realization quicker than he did? Yes. Do I believe he’s afraid of what would happen or what the world would think if he did have them and were to accept that or let himself feel it? Yeah. But I don’t believe I made these feelings up. I don’t believe it, nor did I have to like it; but I did have to respect what he was saying and accept it at face value. If I couldn’t do that, I would’ve lost my best friend and the man that I loved altogether.
After that conversation, we certainly fought more; the fault of which was more so my inability to deal with my feelings more so than anything in particular he had done. I wasn’t an idiot. I knew that I was a mess. And I knew that if I couldn’t get it together soon, I was going to end up pushing him away forever. But it didn’t change the fact that my heart was still breaking inside of me and that its shards were scraping everything around it and causing me to bleed out helplessly.
I felt cheated. Not by Peter, but by whichever thing it was that might be real that all those people believe in and pray to and gloat about like children playing make-believe on the playground. Whether it was God or the Universe or the Fates, I neither knew nor cared about. I was mad at it for making me who I was — someone Peter said didn’t love. I was always a person who felt so deeply and who was so ruled by emotion that it leaked into the air around me and contaminated others — good and bad. I’d spent my whole life — not just my adulthood, but the entire span of it — searching for love that I hadn’t gotten anywhere else that I needed it. I didn’t get it from my father, and my mother’s version of loving came bedazzled in caveats and stipulations. I had spent years following around men who had fucked with my head, played, with my heart, and raped my body. Then finally I found the one man out of the thousands I’d surely met in my life whom I adored both inside and out — a man that gave me a feeling that was nothing less than butterflies — and I couldn’t have him.
What … was wrong … with me?
It almost made me ill to think about sometimes. It left me wondering if I’d ever find someone who was capable of loving me for who I was, crying over whether or not I would feel as good with someone else down the line as I did when I was with Peter.
And even through all that hurt, all the self-doubt, all of the misery I put myself through by loving someone so much, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my friend. And that’s because that one night in the hotel room — as much of an oxymoron as it may be — I felt like I was at home. He’d baptized me in his arms and erased the chipping layer of paint that was the haunting of this terrible thing that had happened to me one night in a bar. With him, I’d never felt safer in my entire life and that was simply because I’d let his arms whisper to me how they’d never let anyone hurt me, and I’d felt the circles he’d traced on my shoulders and the lines his fingernails dug into my skin transfigure into letters spelling out poetry. It was because I’d gotten lost in those eyes like murals that I saw an entire future painted upon around me at the bottom of that well.
But none of it had been what I’d seen. At least … not according to Peter.
Do I believe that he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me? Of course I do. Just because the love he shares only extends to the lengths of our friendship doesn’t change that. That’s the kind of man he is. And the poetry — I can still hear it as clear as day like … like the sound a mermaids luring sailors to them on cliffsides. But it was fleeting; it was a one-night engagement in a tiny block box theatre where every other chair sat vacant; and as the world faded from view around me, every single light in the rafters landed on him as he looked me in the eyes and recited that poetry to me. And those paintings in his eyes showed me what could be if we were to spend our lives together — and that’s where I was, if it matters. I was at the point where he was the first and only man — including Parker, who I thought I would marry — that I ever realistically thought I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. But those murals were just that: what could be … not what was meant to be. But the memory remains intact, as does that feeling of being where I belonged that night with him; and nothing can take that away from me. Not even the knowledge that there is something wrong with me that keeps him from loving me like I love him.
I call that home …
Don’t Fly Away Without Me, Peter Pan, Pt. I
Less Than Butterflies, No. 27
This is how the story went:
I met someone by accident.
He blew me away …
There are people who believe in something — God, karma, a grand design, the Fates … whatever. They tell tales of Noah and his ark, of messiahs born and unborn, gods and goddesses that hail from mountains and heavens and reign over rivers and underworlds. Whatever they believe, the fact is that they do believe in something; and those believers always say the same thing no matter what faith it is they belong to or identify with: Everything happens for a reason.
I, a person that doesn’t belong to any kind of religion, always have the same response to that statement:
Bull. Fucking. Shit.
I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I don’t believe children should get cancer; and I don’t believe that innocents should lose their lives to drunk drivers; I don’t believe that people should be raped by vile human garbage; and I don’t believe people who work their entire lives should barely be able to afford to put food in their mouths or roofs over their heads. And of all the senseless, inexplicable bullshit that happens, I certainly don’t believe that good-hearted, caring, loving people should have their hearts broken.
Some things in life just don’t happen for any reason at all. Some things in life just shouldn’t happen.
This is the story I’ve been leading to this entire season, even before I knew I was leading to it. It’s the story of no matter how much you can try to show someone how much you love them, they can for no reason still not love you back.
This is the story of a man named Peter, and the story of how I fell in love with him without even realizing what had happened until it was far too late. This is the story of how he broke my heart — even though it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t love me, and even though he didn’t mean to — in a way it had never been before.
He blew me away …
🦋 🦋 🦋
It was in the darkest of my days
when you took my sorrow
and you took my pain
and buried them away.
It was a Thursday evening in November of 2017 when I first met him, but only a few words had been exchanged. We were at a function and he was dressed to the nines while I was overweight and searching for the words to introduce myself to this dashing man as I sweated out Adderall and vodka. I was in a weird place in my life. Although I should’ve been rejoicing about all the good things that had been happening in my life at the time — I had just become the editor-in-chief of this magazine, I had amazing new friends as well as amazing old friends, and people were starting to get to know who I was as a writer and a member of the community. But not everything was going as great as I would have liked. I had just gotten out of a relationship with a man I thought I was going to someday marry (remember Parker?); I was slowly but surely falling for an asexual guy I knew didn’t love me back (remember Ezra?); my car had just been stolen from my mother’s driveway while I was out of town and I wasn’t sure how I’d ever afford a new one; plus my roommates in my gorgeous Heights townhouse were moving to Nashville in just a few short months and there was no way I could afford the place by myself.
Things were kind of a disaster; and I had no idea that in the months to come I’d go through yet another heartbreak and just shortly after that I would be drugged and raped. The year, on the whole, had been a nightmare with punctuated by patches of bedlam one after the next. Staying positive while also trying to keep my head above the water was proving difficult, but I wanted more than anything to maintain some air of charisma. After all, I was someone people were getting to know while working in the community; and I was known for my sense of humor at the time more than I was for my column or the magazine.
It wasn’t until one night while meeting up with my friend Gwen at Guava Lamp that I really first met Peter, though. I’d known him from the function before and had done my fair share of research (read: social media stalking), but it wasn’t until Gwen introduced us that we really had a conversation. In spite of my thorough stalking, I still knew very little about him then, but it seemed as though everyone in the world knew him. He was a bobbly-headed, lanky fellow out of that suit he’d worn to the function before that was more cute now than he was dapper. But what I found in just a short exchange of conversation was that Peter was quite charming and funny. My first true impression of his was as I sat at Guava and watched him take the stage with great hubris — albeit, drunk — and sing a strained rendition of Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” with a group of other boys I couldn’t name now if I tried while I giggled and sipped down a vodka cranberry at a table nearby.
When I later went to the parking lot to find a friend of mine, I found him laughing and hugging her as I approached. I can’t quite remember if I knew he’d been out there with her, and maybe that’s what I had approached him in the first place. But either way, when we did engage in conversation, he laughed at my dry jokes and complimented my work at the magazine before we spoke very briefly about trying to work together in our respective businesses to help the community thrive. But after only a single lunch meeting and some text conversations, I didn’t see Peter a lot. I’d heard he moved out of state, but I could hardly keep up with what he was doing with everything else that I had going on. Still, I thought about him, although not in any particular kind of way. After all, he was just a boy I had once fawned over as he sang karaoke. Nothing more, nothing less. He would, however, cross my mind as I scrolled through Facebook and saw photos of him out and about. It wasn’t until Gwen and I somehow pulled him in with the gravity of our own friendship after he’d gone that we began speaking on a regular basis. Group texts became a daily exchange between the three of us, and Marco Polos came shortly after when Gwen convinced us both to join the video walkie-talkie app. And on the side, Peter and I drew the map of a nice little friendship of our own. The tiny crush I’d had on him when we’d met didn’t seem to be an issue once Gwen informed me that Peter had had an on-again-off-again relationship. That being the case, that little crush evaporated into a wisp of smoke like a candle being put out after Mass.
What I couldn’t have known then, however, was just how much like a candle that feeling actually was — how soon it would be lit again and the wax would melt in slow, uneven form until is spilled over the plate it rested upon and hardened against the parts of my life trapped beneath it.
As it turned out, it was just that everyone seemed to know Peter — everyone did know Peter, even my straight friends that weren’t involved in the community. But more importantly, everyone seemed to love Peter, too. He was fun and handsome and had the most beautiful and trusting eyes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those eyes were the first things about him that I fell in love with. Looking at them made you feel surrounded in their color — like you’d suddenly fallen down a well and looked around as you hit the bottom to find you’d landed inside a painting. I still look into those eyes when I feel anxious or unsafe. Even just a picture can do the trick sometimes.
As we became better friends, our conversations were nothing if not a little harsh. Peter was a funny person, too; and what other people may have mistaken for hatefulness was just our back-and-forth banter. It kept us both laughing, even if it at times either of us could get a little carried away. It never ceased to amaze me, however, when Peter could almost read my thoughts and know exactly the right thing to say at the time. He knew when I needed to laugh and he knew when I was about to cry. Even if sometimes our mean-spirited jokes seemed awful to other people, it was evident that we both came from the same school of thought about laughing at things as a coping mechanism. Additionally, I was happy that it was something that I had with him that a lot of other people didn’t get. They got front-facing Peter, a mannequin in a display window. I got three-dimensional Peter — someone I could laugh with, someone I would go on to cry with, and someone I honestly had never expected to get to know all that well.
You buried them away …
🦋 🦋 🦋
I wish I could lay down beside you
when the day is done;
and wake up to your face
against the morning sun.
Something most people don’t know about me is that I was born ill. From the time I came into this world until I was a toddler, I would cry and cry, incapable of being soothed most of the time. In fact, there was only one thing that really did calm me down, as aberrant as it is: Shania Twain. That same woman I’d first heard Peter singing at Guava Lamp the night we’d officially met.
My family listened to a lot of country music and Shania was a big deal in the early 90s. For some inexplicable reason, her voice had a soothing effect on me it likely didn’t have on anyone else in the world. By the time I was of talking age, I could have recited to anyone most of her song lyrics. It’s fair to say that even from the beginning, I was absolute trash. Still, when I was invited to her concert this past year with Peter — our first true outing together save for that one business lunch — who had an extra ticket to the show, I was thrilled. We’d been chatting in that friendly way for months, but we’d never gotten the chance to do anything other than text or send Marco Polo messages to one another. A part of my excitement was just from that: that he’d thought of me as enough of a friend to invite me. The other part was that it was sort of like a childhood dream come true; and the genie in the bottle who had granted it was none other than Peter, a man with whom I’d had only a handful of conversations in-person in my entire life.
I’m not sure if I ever told him this, but that concert was special to me, because it was the first time that Peter for those reasons. Watching him dance like an old man and shout lyrics an octave below Shania at the top of his lungs left me laughing. And even that far into the disaster of my life, I’d needed those laughs. Things weren’t getting better for me, but the moments like that — and many of the others with Peter that came to fruition — made everything seem okay. And I think that might be the thing that I loved about being with him most: he made everything seem like it was going to be okay, even if I’d not shared my worries and woes with him.
Although it seemed to me at the time that Peter might be a difficult person to get to know. He wore a lot of things on his sleeve — what he did, what he loved, why he loved those things; but there were parts of him I could tell even from the beginning that were reserved for only a few people. Something that night told me that I might come to be one of those few people someday soon; and as the next few days during that week passed and we spent even more time together going out in Montrose, that process slowly began.
One thing that I always struggled with was Peter’s popularity. In the gay scene, he was someone people wanted to know, and it was understandable why people wanted to know him. Aside from his looks, his charm, and his zeal, Peter knew a lot of people and ran in circles that one had to work to get into. It was because of that fact that people often took advantage of Peter and his friendship kindness. Even the ones who barely knew him at all weren’t afraid to ask him for favors or to try to worm their way in without giving anything back in the relationship. And that’s always something I worried about when it came to Peter. I was not nearly as successful or financially well-off as he was; and it was my earnest hope that he’d never think I was taking advantage of him. He was someone I really cared about and if that didn’t show at any time when he was doing things for me, it wasn’t because I didn’t want it to. Every single chance I got, I tried to find ways to do things for him, too — even little things to show how much I was growing to care about him. The opposite side of that token was that, the more I realized how people were capable of taking advantage of him, the more defensive and protective of him I got around other people. And when it came to his popularity, it often put me at arm’s length from the people I could tell he genuinely cared about that seemed to only be there to take advantage of that fact.
That’s why going out with Peter got the better of me, and I didn’t quite understand why. I would often get so frustrated and mad at him without any sort of reason, but now I can say that it was just that. I was concerned. Peter — very much like myself — wanted to love people, and he wanted so badly to be loved that he would have done and still would do anything for anyone he cared about. But as I watched him traipse around Montrose with his friends that had come before me, I found that my irritation would spike and leave me unable to even speak to or make eye contact with him. At the time, I wouldn’t have thought of it as jealousy, but the more I dwell on it now — and believe me when I say that I dwell — the more I realize that jealousy was a big part of it. I’d met someone that I really cared about and had befriended him unexpectedly. Seeing him tell jokes with old friends that I didn’t understand was difficult, even for someone like myself that usually had no problem inserting themselves into a situation. But I never wanted to do that with Peter, because I didn’t want him to think I was imposing upon something that didn’t belong to me. So I sat back and watched from the sidelines many times, jealous that it would be a long time before I got to have those moments with him. But more so, I was genuinely afraid of the intentions others had for him. In the short time I’d known him, I’d watched him get hurt and used and had heard a few of the stories. I was letting my inner-mother come out on the defensive, and sometimes that wasn’t necessary. But in truth, I wouldn’t go back and change it. He was my friend, and I would have done it for any other friend the same that I did for him.
As would soon become a tradition of ours, I was staying with him a few days after the Shania Twain concert just because I was a little too fucked up from drinking and doing cocaine to actually drive myself anywhere. I was in the midst of getting over one boy and I wasn’t handling myself well in the months descending from that. On the last night I stayed there — I think it had only been two nights in a row — and when the others we’d been hanging out with had left, Peter shared a story with me about how he’d lost a friendship with my then-new friend, Chance, and how it had affected him, as well as how the loss of the other friends involved had affected him. Their separation would go on for several months to follow, and Chance would only ever just now begin to fully get over what happened. But as Peter — also drunk — told me the story as we sat in his bed, I remember having to do everything in my power now to wrap my arms around him and hold him. His vulnerability was like the liquid that cools into glass — penetrable, thin, and capable of either creating something beautiful or causing harm to someone who gets too close.
That’s the night our friendship really began, as far as I’m concerned; but I think it’s also the night I really started to care for him as something more than a friend. It was the first time I looked to his eyes, fell down the well, and landed in a painting that was — while equally beautiful — one that brought me great melancholy.
But like every man I’ve ever known,
you’ll disappear someday.
So I spend my whole life hiding
my heart away.
🦋 🦋 🦋
Dropped me off at the train station,
put a kiss on top of my head,
and watched me wave.
I started to spend more and more time with Peter as the months went on. Every day was filled with notes to and from him in my phone, three and four day-long visits would take place where we’d bunk up at night and talk and laugh and adventure during the day and well into the aforementioned nights. I trailed in his stride trying to keep up with whatever good time he was having whether I was visiting him out of state or whether we were here in Montrose with his other friends. I’d tag along with him to work functions and watch doe-eyed as he schmoozed with his betters and his lessers, a little turned on by just how sexy it was to see him do his job and to do it so well. He introduced me to people I probably otherwise would have never met, and he spun me into a baby socialite of sorts that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be. I loved my community, don’t get me wrong; but the bar and club scenes weren’t quite my aesthetic anymore, and they would become even less so my scene after being raped in June. I was terrified of them for a while, to be honest. Sometimes that terror comes back up when I least expect it — I could be having a drink in the bar and laughing with friends and reach down for my glass only to remember that someone had once drugged and raped me in a bar just like that before my anxiety would spin out of control and I’d make some excuse to leave. But when I was with Peter in those nocturnal settings, I usually felt okay and could staive off the fear. He liked to take care of people, even if he wasn’t sure that he was doing it. He was a natural-born caretaker, even if the way in which he did it was sometimes adjacent to confusing, Still, he was a calculated person who liked to plan out what he would say and do, and that much was evident when we were together. I think a part of that safety net came from the fact that when we did go out and socialize and drink and dance, he sort of — if not metaphorically — took my by the hand and just led the way. Sure I was trotting along at his heels, but he was pulling me in stride.
On one particular night I’ve written about before just a short three months after being raped, Peter and I had an intimate moment while in bed at a hotel. He and I had been working on some business matters together, and I elected to stay with him there rather than going home so that we could spend more time together before he had to drive back out of town — like I said, this was becoming tradition. That night, we’d both done a little Molly and spent the night dancing at a club before going to an after party hosted by some stranger to me where we rolled our asses off on the couch and everyone else sipped wine out of Olivia Pope-style glasses like classy adults. As the rolls got stronger on the couch, Peter was in no shape to be around functioning adults, and I was already lying on his shoulder ready to pass out with my hand in resting on his thigh.
That was another one of those things I’m not sure had any real reason behind it. Sure, I was tired and my friend was sitting beside me. But I can’t remember exactly what led me to do that. I never really touched people, least of all not Peter. We were great friends who seemed more like frenemies to anyone didn’t really know us. But we weren’t the type to touch one another all that much. But that weekend, he’d been handling our business so well and I’d started to look at him not as Peter my friend, but as Peter this man who was taking care of shit without being asked to do so. Aside from the business, I’d been rather upset with a boy named Mason that night for going on a date with another man and Peter had just swooped in — albeit, with Molly — and took care of me. So we returned to the hotel room and he disrobed to get into bed, I curled up next to him and rested my head on his chest. I wanted to thank him, but I couldn’t find the words; and it seemed as though maybe that was the way to do it. He sat up and put his arm around me and traced circles on my shoulder with his fingers while I ran mine over his skin and listened to a medley of his heartbeat and gentle moans and hisses coming from his mouth. Even if I wasn’t entirely sure what had made me engage so much in touching him, but there’s one thing I did know for certain:
That night was the first time I had let a man put his hands on me in the three months since I’d been raped. I’d had no sexual encounters, no kisses from dates — mind you, I hadn’t had any dates, either — and I’d squirmed at friends who tried to hug me or show me affection. The one time I’d let a man put his hands on me was just a few nights after being raped, when Ezra had listened to me tell the story I’d only just started to piece together and hugged me afterward for what felt like an eternity. No one else.
Maybe that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, but it is for me; and I think it is for any rape survivor who has long-lost their trust in men. That yearning for physical affection doesn’t come back easily, and certainly for most it doesn’t come back after just three short months. But Peter — someone I’d only just shared my rape story with a few nights before he’d come into town — was there with me, and he was there for me; and I wanted that closeness with not just anyone, but with him, even if I’d only realized it just then. There was my new best friend that had slipped into my life by accident lying naked beside me and all I could think about was the fact that he was the only man that I ever wanted to touch me again. He’d swooped in and saved the day for work, cared for me and made me feel like he wanted to be around me, and now he was holding me in his arms as I ran my fingers over the skin of his chest and tummy and felt us both growing erections beneath the sheets. He was literally a prince who had ridden in on a white horse and lent his hand to me on the ground below where I’d fallen. I’d never wanted a prince before that moment; but, at least for that night, I’d gotten mine.
We didn’t make love; and in some ways I regret that, but in others I think it would only make what happened next and what is happening now all the more unbearable. Instead we touched one another, and I found out he was ticklish under his arms and blew a raspberry there to send him flying into the air. I kissed his chest and we intertwined our legs together and I tapped the bottom of one of my feet against the top of his twice: tap-tap. That’s was the calling card of a Molly roll. When it hit your system, and you tapped on someone’s shoulder to see whether or not they were feeling it. Tap-tap, went my foot against his, then the top of his went against the bottom of mine, Tap-tap. And Peter played music, and I think I rolled away from him, and we both fell asleep and woke the next morning far too late for check-out.
As hard as we were rolling, there were a number of factors that played into the fact that we shouldn’t sleep together; though I believe that had either of us pushed just a little bit harder, had my hand grazed over his pubis or had clawed his fingernails just a little bit deeper into my shoulder blades than he had been, we likely would have. And you know what? It probably would have been magical and unforgettable and, again, an event that would’ve made this all the more difficult for me. I wanted him to make love to me that night, though; I won’t lie. He’d had sex with pretty much everyone else that I knew; and while it was nice to be in a place where I was the only person he hadn’t slept with, it was a place that made me feel like a leper — like I wasn’t worthy. I was attractive, and witty, and smart, and funny, and I was driven. But later it would come to seem as though there was something undesirable about me; and to this day I have to stop myself from asking him what that is.
Even still, when we woke the next day, we ran errands together, visited his family together, had drinks together on a rooftop bar, watched a show together, sang karaoke together, and in summation shared one of my favorite days of the last twenty-four years together. It would have been the perfect day if I hadn’t had to have parted ways with him at the end of it. I’d begged him all day just to spend one extra day with me, and for a while I thought me might acquiesce; but his work needed tending to out of state, as did mine, frankly. When he went to leave, I almost didn’t hug him because I was so mad that he had to leave. But he called me back to him, gave me a hug, and planted a peck on my cheek as my eyes began to water. And as soon as I was out of his line of sight, I cried my eyes out and texted him over-and-over again. We even talked the majority of his drive back home.
Even then, I still wanted to be lying back in his arms.
You watched me wave …
Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. II
Less Than Butterflies, No. 26
Though the evening — at least for Bertha and me — only lasted a few hours, the three of us became quick friends and managed to cover an array of topics that would have given the women of The View a run for their shitty, daytime television money. As if we were college (dropout) roommates catching up after having settled down with Plain Janes and having three kids we couldn’t afford a good Christmas for due to our drinking problems, we covered every topic imaginable. We discussed important topics like the issues of the infighting that plagued our community, and even more important topics like the comfortability of a beard when having your ass eaten. In this beautiful reprieve from my own previously-unquelled anxieties (which were some kind of cocktail made up of not being loved by the man I loved and missing my best friend and whether or not I’d ever get caught up on all the work I was so frighteningly behind on), I was for the first time in weeks able to just … exhale.
With Matt eventually switching to water and Bertha claiming time-after-time that she was on her last drink, we schlepped our way from the Eagle back to JR’s where the flighty, overly-Adderall-ed, sort-of-still-new-to-town bartender bought our first round of drinks. Between the three of us, we each ran into a handful of people we knew — some in common, others not — and still managed to find something to discuss at every turn. More than once the topic of Peter was brought up; although I quickly changed the subject each time. I wasn’t going to bog my newfound friends down with my drunken emotions, nor was I going to divulge a personal situation that was still fresh. And for the time being, the only persons it involved were Peter and I and that’s how it needed to remain. I’d even begun purposely neglecting to share details about our bad and good times with Gwen simply because — in a rather rare moment of maturity on my part — I’d come to realize that putting any of our close friends in the middle of our chaotic friendship hiccup wasn’t fair. If I needed to bitch about something Peter had said or done, what good would it have done me to tell the people we were both close to? They’d been his friends first. And, sure, I had the luxury of spending more time with them than he; but it would be childish to try to momentarily encourage anyone to my side of an argument when we were both in the wrong on nearly each and every account — both too stubborn and emotional to acquiesce to the other’s needs, no matter how similar they may have been.
As it got closer to nine o’clock (mind you, I’d only started drinking just after six), I had already had upwards of half a dozen vodka cranberries, two Fireball concoction shots at the Eagle, and a Rumplemintz shot that some man who was “courting” — and I do use that word in a sense just as loose as the hungry butthole seeking penetration — had bought rounds of for us. Bertha had Ubered herself home because, as she put it, “Talk to me once you’re over thirty-years-old”; and I was well on my way to needing some cocaine to be able to drive later that night. The stranger who had bought the shots of Rumple asked me questions a bit aggressively about the magazine, my column, and my relationship to Matthew. I wasn’t sure whether or not he was under the impression that I was trying to sleep with the pocket gay — which, to be clear, I was not. However, I took note of the change in the intonation of his voice once I’d made that clear, after which he immediately began to share with me some oddities I wasn’t completely clear as to why he felt he needed to share with a complete stranger.
“You know,” he said as we stood next to the bar while Matt was in the restroom for what began to feel like an eternity the longer this man spoke to me. “I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Matt,” he explained.
“Uh-huh?” I said with a cluck of my tongue.
“Like … it’s weird. I love him to death … but I also really want to hate-fuck him.”
If the blowback of my head wasn’t enough to give me whiplash, the speed at which I craned down to the bar to slurp up the rest of my drink might have.
“Well …” I muttered when I came back up for air. “That is … that is an interesting little fact to share with a complete and total stranger.” The man then laughed, proceeded to apologize and explain that he was drunk, and then gave me an all-too-comfortable hug for someone I’d just met.
Soon enough, my recently-lovelorn friend Chance texted me to let me know he’d be hosting a show at another bar that night with our other BFF and drag queen royal, Ava. Drunk and not quite ready to go home yet, I coerced my last-standing companion and his new boy-toy to Lyft to the other bar with me for a bit. They insisted on driving — likely so one could blow the other in the car before arriving — but I opted to make the best of all the free Lyft rides I’d been collecting for no apparent reason. I wasn’t really in a place in my life where I was ready to mark off the DWI box on my Gay Bingo card; plus the time to the next bar, the time spent there, and the time Lyfting back would hopefully prove long enough to sober myself so that I could drive home later.
I did not sober, in fact.
Who could’ve predicted that?
At the next bar I drank three cosmos and someone bought me a shot of tequila after I gave him a cigarette on the patio and let him put his hand down the back of my pants for what I’m sure could have only been research. Or … I don’t know … reach-around-search. [shrugging emoji]. I’d lost Matt somewhere along the way, although he finally found me (likely by standing on someone else’s shoulders) and alerted me to the fact that he and the JR’s stranger we’re going home to fuck. I applauded this as I drank more and finally found Chance and Ava in the DJ booth. I chatted drunkenly with Ava for a moment, but soon I couldn’t contain my sentiment anymore.
Between Gwen, Peter, Ava, Chance, and myself, we had over the last year become our very own version of the Plastics from Mean Girls. Each of us was — to varying degrees, and myself being the least of which — relatively known in our community and had jobs that weren’t the type just anyone has, as we all worked in some sort of intersection of media and entertainment. We had affectionately dubbed ourselves The Tap-Taps, an inside, Molly joke that sort of just stuck when we’d changed our group chat name to it in our iMessage thread. Rarely were all five of us ever in the same room — and luckily so, as I’ve heard that to be the Seventh Seal of the Apocalypse. Still, this Fucked-Up Fab Five was sort of the perfect bunch. Chance and Peter had been inseparable friends for years only to be torn apart over a boy, and finally to come back together; Chance and Ava worked together several times a week; Ava and Peter had known each other for a while, but had really only gotten close after hosting a show together a little over a year ago; Ava and Gwen had been good pals for years that also worked together semi-regularly; and Gwen and Peter had run in the same circles for years, but were only just now approaching the one year anniversary of their first real hang-out.
I’d admired Gwen from afar for a while, only for her to sort of demand we become best friends; Gwen introduced me to Peter one night while he was fucked up at Guava, where we began to establish a professional relationship that later turned into friendship; I’d gotten to know Ava through mutual encounters with her alongside both Peter and Gwen, truly only hanging out for the first time the night that I’d met Chance, the same night I’d learned of his then-defunct friendship with Peter. I was the baby of the family — and I mean that near literally. All of these people were upwards of 28; I, however, rung in at a mere 24. They had histories with one another, no matter how sparse or convoluted, that I probably would never have with them. Yet, for the first time in my life, I felt as though I’d found my people. I loved them. Regardless of the task, in that year they’d all proven to be the people who showed up and showed out and helped to make dreams come true, which is the very thing I wanted to do for them, too. And by my third cosmo, I was missing Peter, again. But I was also missing Gwen — who I knew I’d see the next morning. And even with them standing right there, I missed Ava and Chance, too.
It was such a strange feeling. The idea that my friendship with Peter was only being held together by a thread that could at any moment be pulled away frightened me, because it might have meant that I would lose the rest of my family, too.
But with that fear, with that potential for a heartbreak even greater than the sort a man could ever do to me, I was also elated. I mean, for fuck’s sake … how lucky of a fag was I? Not only did I belong to a grown-up clique of cool kids, but on the very night when I stood upon a precipice that could catapult me into losing these deep, magical, meaningful friendships, two people who were nearly strangers to me had been kind and thoughtful enough to sweep down from the sky, scoop me up, and give me the one thing I’d been needing most — and not just since Peter and I had taken a break. It had been the thing I needed since the moment I realized I was in love with him months ago:
A reminder that no matter what happened, there were always going to be people in my life that cared about me.
I kissed Ava on the cheek and hugged Chance goodbye, Lyfting to a Starbucks near the car where I could sit and sober for a while as I flipped through my mental Rolodex of alcohol-induced sentimentalities. Even in my own anxiety-fueled paranoia, I was grateful for Bertha and Matt for being so kind to someone they’d only really just met. And that gratitude served as a reminder that, yeah, sure, things may not have been great for Peter and I right at that moment … but that this too would come to pass. I may not ever fully get over the feelings I was having for him, but I knew — as history showed me with Ezra, and Parker, and every other man before them — that I’d learn to live with it. Was the situation with Peter different? Yeah. Vastly so. But the bottom line was that we were two friends who cared enough about each other and about ourselves to take a breather.
I knew after that moment at the bar — and after seeing that he’d peeped at my Snapchat and realizing he was sending messages in our Tap-Taps group thread — that we would eventually be okay; and my fear that I’d lose my other friends over this, too, finally began to subside. It would take time before we could ever be the people we were to one another, and likely it would never be quite the same. But that’s the great thing about having friends who are just as queer as you are:
They’re all we have.
And no matter how many there might be — a Bertha, an Ava, a Gwen, a Chance, a Matthew, a Peter, and all the others — each relationship is individualistic and unique. Each is — like all other things in life — energized and alive, capable of being damaged when its dropped, but mendable with the proper care. And if it had been anyone else — Parker, Ezra, Taylor, Adam, [insert every other ex or love interest here] — I probably would have something to fear. But the core of my relationship with Peter — as well as with the other three — is the kind of love that only comes from two friends who truly want to be in one another’s lives because of how good the friendship is.
These friends of mine, new and old, they’ve made me who I am today, even in such a short amount of time. They truly are all I have, because I wouldn’t be me if not for the handprints they’ve left on my heart.
🦋 🦋 🦋
Having made it home and in bed before midnight, I woke from a peaceful dream at five AM. It was a dream that had been recurring since September, and maybe one day I’ll share it, too. As of late, however, I’d not had it in several weeks; and I welcomed it back with a smile on my face as I woke.
That smile faded, however, the moment I realized it was still dark outside.
I reached for my phone and found a few messages from Bertha and Matt in a group chat. As it happened, everyone was craving Chicken Minis from Chick-Fil-Hate, Bertha wanted her hungry butthole hate-fucked like Matt, and Matt had been sourly disappointed with the stranger from JR’s, leaving him to go back out and then to the home of another man … and then another. (more…)
Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. I
Less Than Butterflies, No. 26
Gay men understand what’s important: clothes, compliments, and cocks.”
— Samantha Jones
🦋 🦋 🦋
Ladies and … gaydies …?
I know I make a lot of statements in this column, many of which you may agree with, many of which you may not. My turn-ons are not necessarily the same as or even similar to your own, my bad sex experiences might be so humiliating that you could never imagine sharing them with someone else if they’d happened to you, and maybe you actually know one of my exes personally and think he’s a good guy. You’re … you know … wrong. But … whatever. It’s fine. Anyway! It’s fine to have differing opinions; it’s what makes the world colorful and beautiful and interesting. But I do think that if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this:
Men. Are fucking. Insane.
But there is some respite from the eternal woes of men — do they love you? Do they not? Are they going to text you? Should you text them? Will they compliment the outfit you spent hours picking out just because you knew you’d be seeing them later? Why didn’t he invite you out with him and his other friends? What does their last text mean? Is he just your friend? Or did that one night you almost slept together and all that other sexual awkwardness mean something else is going on?
Don’t fucking look at me like that.
The fact remains that men are insane and unpredictable and sometimes a little selfish and act without thinking about how their actions are going to affect other people. I should know, and not just because I’ve slept with most of the world’s population of men, but because I too — even if debatably so, at times — am one. And as much as I like to point it out in others, there is not a doubt in my mind that I am just as bad as (if not worse than) all the others.
Surprisingly enough — as it would seem that the majority of my friends that get mentioned in these stories are women — many of my friends are this way, too, as they as well are men. Mind you, 98% of them, like me, are flaming homosexuals. If you lined 9 of us during the winter, one could easily confuse us for a menorah lit for the last night of Hanukkah. But it’s that brazen disregard for what is culturally seen as what it means to be male — from the flapping of fans to the beat of some trashy, pop remix on the dance floor right on down to the ass-eating — that makes gay men special. Now, don’t take that to be a gloss over everyone else in our community; it’s not. People on every end of the LGBTQIA spectrum are just as special. It is our perceived aberrance — our sparkle that stands out to straight, cis-gender people that they’re too irritatingly blinded by to see its beauty — that attracts us all to one another.
Because — at least, in a sense — we’re all that we have. That’s not to say that our straight and cis allies aren’t good to us, that they aren’t advocating for us. But no matter how hard a person advocates for the rights of people who have been culturally and socially stigmatized all throughout history in a way they have not — that is to say, if they don’t share that history or if they haven’t suffered their own plight — being an ally is only nominal. This is not me detracting from the importance of our allies. We’d be nowhere as queer people if there hadn’t been straight and cis people listening to what we need, then going to battle for those things, swords wielded and shields tossed into our arms to protect ourselves. Still, the celebration and commiseration that can only be shared by people who have been through it as well can only be found in our community.
And that, friends, is why there isn’t anything more exciting — at least, not in my opinion — than the ardor that comes from befriending people like you.
🦋 🦋 🦋
Peter and I were on a break from our ever-complicating friendship because, as I mentioned before, men are insane. And as a surprise plot twist I may regret ever admitting, I must confess that the insanity I’m speaking of here is my own.
Yeah. I’m fucking crazy. If you’ve been reading along this far into the series, you’ve probably picked up on that by now. I can’t pin this one on the dude, but more on that another day.
Peter, for those of you who have been following along, was up until this point referred to as Pistachio at my friend Gwen’s insistence. I could only take myself seriously for so long by naming a man after a nut — although, as aforementioned, men are fucking nuts. So now, nineteen columns into this season of Less Than Butterflies, I’ve elected to change his name for the second time. And for those of you who have not been following along, Peter makes a great segue from my former point about friendships into the story to come. He was someone I’d grown incredibly close to over the course of only a short year, but someone whom I’d fallen in love with by accident after a series of intimacies and resultant misfortunes (not to mention tantrums on my part). Our friendship had been struggling in the small span of time since, and eventually I will get around to telling our full story from beginning to end. But not today; not while I’m still trying to understand it completely myself coupled with trying to not be a lunatic.
That said, as our once-wonderful (albeit delightfully hateful) friendship had hit a rocky road — feelings tight, tensions high — we’d found ourselves in a place where we were taking a bit of break from one another. It sucked, considering the holidays were quickly approaching and many of the plans we’d made not only with one another, but with all our other friends, were intersectional. But even just a few days apart had already done us some good. Or, maybe I should say that it had done me some good. I can’t speak for him, but I can only assume it had also served him some much-needed space to clear his head and to get a little freedom from my affections and psychotic reactions he’d never signed up for. But as much good as it was doing me, even just a few days in … I really missed my best friend.
When I felt that melancholy at first — maybe it came when I found a meme I’d wanted to share with him or when I saw his texts in our group chat that involved many of our closest friends — I noticed that the root of missing him didn’t stem from the romantic feelings that I had. Sure, those were still there; but what I was feeling was a seemingly-perennial void that came from not having my friend to annoy and talk to about stupid shit all throughout the day. I tried everything to shake it off. Over the course of three short days, I’d made myself zero in on my work — not a difficult thing to do when that’s all I ever do anyway — begin meditating first thing in the morning and before I went to bed, brushed-up on my long-since-used Italian, and even get back into the habit of exercising every day (kill me; JK — the exercise is going to do that for you). Still, as much as I was happy with the these little additions to my daily schedule, a chunk of the day didn’t pass that I had to remind myself as I was picking up my phone to text him a joke that we were on a break from one another.
So, in an effort to fill some of that empty space, I had resolved to embark upon the only proven method of treatment that had ever worked for me in these situations in the past:
I was going to spend time with some of my other friends. Even better, I was going to have a girls’ night with all of my queer friends that weekend before he and I would check in the following Monday to see where we were at and at which time I would likely apologize for being a psychopath in the hopes that we could at least cordially spend the holidays together with all our friends.
Immediately I put out the call for anyone who wanted to partake in a girls’ night with me, accompanied by my ever-handy “Find Our Sisters” American Horror Story GIF. It was going to be a day for any and everyone who equally needed a day of doing anything we could to relax, enjoy ourselves, and (most importantly) talk about anything that we wanted to so long as the conversation did not revolve around our most recent love interests — good or bad. I had no clear idea of what this would look like, mind you. Maybe we’d start with brunch at Baba Yega, move on to mani-pedis, spend a few hours in the living room of someone’s shitty, Montrose-adjacent apartment watching some mildly-misogynistic romantic comedy, go out drinking as the bars and clubs began to populate, flirt with people we truly had no interest in, and then round it all off by dancing at Rich’s. Or, conversely, maybe the plan would flop and we’d all just end up crying and eating our feelings. I hoped the latter wouldn’t present itself as the more likely option, but knew that after a few glasses of Cabernet on the back patio of Barnaby’s, I’d end up crying and rushing to the bathroom to fix my face before dodging questions about what was wrong with me and smiling stupidly to placate my worried, drunken friends.
Immediately after sending out an open invitation on Facebook, requests to partake came flooding in. The excitement of making this come to life was thrilling me. I wasn’t the only sad, heartbroken queer in Houston; though one could argue that I was the most pathetic of the bunch. Why shouldn’t I stand myself at the helm of a fun, senseless day that could end up making us all feel fantastic or at least alleviate our woes for a few hours? And what more effective method was there? Historically, each and every time I’d had my heart broken, this was the only method that worked.
When I’d made a conscious decision to put a little space between Ezra and I after he’d broken my heart (albeit unintentionally), the only thing that ever made me feel better was the kinship I shared with my friends like Gwen and Chance and, yes, even Peter! Maybe even especially Peter. Definitely so especially Gwen. I’d have died without her by my side those hard months. When I’d cut myself out of the canvas of the world after being raped, I was only resurrected from my internal purgatory because I had those same people surrounding me. When my ex-boyfriend, Parker, and I had broken up — and even when I recently found out he’d just wed only a year after telling me he wasn’t the marrying type — my friends were the only thing that carried me through the shitstorm that ensued within my mind.
So, why shouldn’t I call on the #girlsquad to come and distract me for a while? And why shouldn’t I be there to do the same for them if they were struggling, too? Before I’d even finished rationalizing the logic to myself, friends from grade school expressed their interest in such an event; closer friends like Gwen and Alice came ushering in to show their support; members of my clique from high school popped up offering to bring edible treats — likely cooked in marijuana butter; even a few folks I hardly knew at all began springing up and wishing to join in on the festivities. It appeared as though the weekend was going to prove to be successful for my little heartbroken and/or supportive coven. Only, when I woke on Wednesday from a short nap after staying up all night working, it appeared that #girlsquad time would be happening sooner than I’d expected.
In Houston’s LGBTQIA community, everyone who is someone — and really, even those who aren’t — seems to sort of know everyone after a while. There’s the indoctrination phase, which usually happens after befriending one social gay and being invited into one friend circle before being dragged by the hand into another, creating some big, gay Venn Diagram. Then come the seemingly-vapid rites of passage, like staying up until the sun wakes doing cocaine at some after-party in Midtown or Eado, or shoving ones down a stripper’s jockstrap at Tony’s Corner Pocket, or maybe even witnessing your first patio blowjob at Ripcord. Finally comes the ‘I-met-one-person-at-an-event-and-now-have-a-hundred-friend-requests’ phase. Maybe you’ve just befriended a drag queen with a great deal of clout like the reigning Miss Gay Texas America, Regina Blake-DuBois, after watching her lip sync a number from Wicked at her show, The Broad’s Way. Maybe you bumped rompers with one of the Pride Houston chairpeople while sipping Bellini pitchers at Rosemont. Maybe you’ve attended your first Pride Portraits photoshoot or Montrose Center fundraiser. Or maybe you’ve just spent three-and-a-half minutes arguing with Brenda Rich as to why you had to pay the seven dollar cover at front counter of Rich’s [insert obligatory: “That’ll be seven dollars” here].
The point is that everyone seems to know everyone else. And if one person overhears a rumor about another person that they don’t know, the chances are that they’re separated from one another by only a few degrees; and the person on the receiving end of the rumor will go out of their way to get to know that person. After all … the gays are a nosy people.
So when I awoke from my nap to find a work-related text message from a relatively new acquaintance whom we’ll call Matthew inviting me to meet up with him at JR’s, I jumped on the opportunity. Because, as he put it, “Bertha and I are gonna be on our dumb bitch behavior today if you’re not busy and want to be mildly entertained/driven to drink.”
Naturally, I replied, “Yesgodwhen.”
By the time I’d had time to shower, find an outfit, and fight inner-loop traffic, an hour had passed and the dynamic duo had moved on from JR’s to the Eagle, where I stood on the patio finishing a Marlboro before joining them inside. Before I’d even had time to extinguish the cigarette, a voice from behind me chirped, “Oh, heeeey.” I turned to see Matt poking his head out the old French doors and waving before weaving back inside. When I joined them, Matt and Bertha sat perched at the bar discussing how, just the night before, Matt had been traipsing around the bar flashing a photo of his penis to all the patrons around last call. Bertha — or Bertha Bored — was Matt’s drag queen best friend who was notorious amongst the gays for being one of the most outrageous caricatures I’m sure most any person would ever encounter in their lives. Today, she was out of drag and hanging out as one of the gay boys. Although, in spite of her cis-ness, Bertha still answered to Bertha full-time and seemed to take no issue with feminine pronouns.
Truth be told, I barely knew either of these people. What I did know of them was based solely upon what I’d heard from other people — truly all good things — and the interactions I’d seen them partake in on social media. Patrick was a local bartender and pocket gay that, in spite of his butch presentation, epitomized a few too many gay stereotypes. Bertha, on the other hand, was equally outrageous, although far less so in more quaint settings than she portrayed herself to be while working or on Facebook. That last part, as it happened, seemed to be something we all had in common. While not a single one of us now sipping from tall bar glasses could get away with saying that we weren’t boisterous or over-the-top, it could be easily read from spending time with the three of us that we weren’t actually as slutty or as drunk or as loud as we led other people to believe.
Don’t get me wrong, the three of us were all of those things; but the public personification was far more exasperating than the gay men behind the curtains.
“So what’ve y’all been up to?” I asked as I sipped from a vodka cranberry that Matt had taken the liberty of putting on his tab.
“Well,” Matt began, “I texted this one earlier …” he motioned toward Bertha, “… and told her that I was bored and wanted to do something. But I told her I really didn’t want to be a dumb bitch today, but that it’s really the only thing I’m good at.”
“Right, right,” I agreed with a single nod.
“And then when I was messaging you, I sort of was like, ‘You know, Anthony said that he was wanting to do a girls’ night thing. Why don’t we invite him to hang with us?’.”
“And here we are,” I added.
“Being dumb bitches,” Bertha concluded as we all raised our glasses in cheers to Dumb Bitchery, new and old.
Gay Sex, Straight Guy
Less Than Butterflies, No. 25
Here’s the thing about having gay sex with men who say they’re “straight” …
I gasped as he ran his hand ever so gently across the nape of my neck and pulled not me in, but himself into me before he laid his lips upon mine.
… not even just “straight” men; maybe just men …
The kisses were long and slow, but not the suffocating kind that makes you wonder when you’re going to be able to come back up for air. The kind you sink into — no — the kind you melt into.
… You know, men who are just a little older than you, men who pay attention to you, men who aren’t only concerned with getting off, but making sure that you get off, too …
He ran his hand down from my neck, but not the entire hand. His palms raised up like the trunk of a car and his fingertips slid down the outside of my shirt and over my underwear just above my penis before they just … stopped.
… These men open doors for you; and they walk close by you in public; and they let you finish a thought without cutting you off mid-sentence …
He pressed just their tips — those tiny zones of flesh just halfway down the fingernails on the opposite side — between the elastic of my briefs and the the skin of my pubis. Then he swayed them from side-to-side, teasing me — making me wonder whether or not he was going to take them off. And as his hand pressed back down firmly over their fabric and the fingertips came out from beneath, he edged his hand down and around what was waiting for him, and brushed his knuckles against the inside of my thigh.
… they are so good with their hands.
He leaned in, hot breath hitting the exposed skin between my shirt and underwear; and as he removed my clothing with the ease of a sea mammal leaping out of the water and diving back inside like a subtle decrescendo, he whispered, “You are absolutely breathtaking.”
I could have come right then and there.
Lovesickness does something to me. As it cracks the shell of my heart before my soul slides into the skillet to be stabbed at and scrambled, it absorbs the heat of the fire that cooks it. Although not always at first, like it seemed to do this time. Usually I have to get through all the crying, eating, drinking, depressive stages of my heartache before I can even look at another man with whom I might want to have sex — even it it’s just sex. I think that’s how I knew my tears brought on by Pistachio breaking my heart weighed a bit more than those before it. I was so crippled by my own hurt that I couldn’t bear to feel that way for long. It was all-consuming. It was as though I was actually afraid for the night to fall because being alone with no one else in the world to suffer through this with was a sort of loneliness I’d never experienced before. But when I’d finally fall asleep and the sun would come up shortly after, I’d be tearful just as my eyes began to open that I didn’t want to get up and be amongst people. I wanted to stay there and be alone until this famished melancholy inside of me had finally gone away.
It didn’t leave, however. I’m not sure it ever will leave. Just when I think I’ve vacated its presence, I’m overwhelmed with a heaviness in my chest and the feeling of someone making a fist around my stomach. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t even enjoy drinking, because it only brings the emotions out stronger. The only thing that seems to be letting me forget, even if just for a short time, is sex.
I know, I know. That is an extremely unhealthy coping mechanism. It’s no better than lines of cocaine — done that — or drinking myself into a coma — that, as well. It’s not really replacing the feeling of loneliness, the one of a broken heart. It’s just replacing them emotional feelings with heightened physical ones that are so overwhelming in the moment that it provides respite, even if just long enough for me to close my eyes during climax.
Just in the week following me finally getting out of bed, I had successfully blown a man in the bar parking lot, had sex with another man in the bed of his pick-up truck behind a gas station, orally serviced a dad in his bathroom while his girlfriend slept in the next room, and gotten out of sleeping with a guy who looked nothing like his profile picture on Grindr by telling him a half-lie about being too devastated to sleep with anyone after I’d recently had my heart broken. As far as sex went, I was sort of killing it, now racking up my grand total of men to 106. It seemed impossible that there was anyone left I hadn’t slept with, although I knew this wasn’t true as most of the annoying, twinkier fellows I could hardly stand speaking to, let alone having sex with. But what I did realize was that the man who would be my 107th sexcapade was much closer than I could have ever imagined. Five houses down from my mother’s, in fact. But no matter how the adage goes, not everything is about location, location, location. Although if the sex is as good as the location, it may have just proved that this man wasn’t just my 107 … he was Lucky Number 107.
His name was Grayson — although I didn’t learn that until later — and goddamn was this man a motherfucking man. He was one of those Texas men that — even as a Texan — I believed only existed in Southern mythology. He stood 6’4” weighing 220 pounds of pure, cut, and tight muscle. Or at least — that’s what I could ascertain from his Grindr profile that I grazed over while staying at my mother’s house for a few nights while her husband was out of town. And almost as if he could feel me staring at the details of his profile, my phone hummed that ribbit-like alert notifying me that the 35-year-old jock had just sent me a message.
“I think you might be my neighbor,” he wrote, followed by, “It says you’re only 300 feet away.” That much was true, and I’d honestly been thinking of going around the neighborhood to see how close I could realistically get to him in an effort to fish out which house the man lived in and, in turn, his identity.
“Seems like it,” I wrote back with a winking emoji. I was going full-Samantha Jones on this guy. If a man of his build was at all interested in pressing his body against mine, I was all for it.
“Well,” he typed out. “Either that or you’re hiding in my pantry … because you look like a goddamn snacc.”
I loved when men called me a snacc. It combined my two favorite things: sex with boys … and junk food.
“You are correct about that,” I told this man who was so far removed from my league that I might as well have been playing softball with a pack of moving lesbians while he was winning the World Series — this baseball analogy will seem more fitting later. “And you are a very attractive man,” I added with an upside-down smiley face.
The banter continued, but we didn’t end up sleeping together that night. In fact, I’m nearly certain that I fell asleep while talking to him, or maybe he had. Either way, another day passed and I didn’t hear from this man. It wasn’t until I was leaving my office in the wee hours of the morning to go home and get some rest — although I knew I’d never be able to sleep, as I’d just taken an Adderall at 10 PM to keep myself awake long enough to get things done for the next workday — when I heard that annoying Grindr notification on my phone.
“You up?” he asked me.
I smirked. I was somewhat impressed by this guy. He had never once asked me to send him nudes, and he hadn’t sent any to me either. He had revealed to me only photos of his face and body — both of which were more than aesthetically pleasing — and he had actively engaged me in conversation that wasn’t laced with propositions for blowjobs or sexual innuendo. Even when I’d asked him what it was he was into, he’d replied with such naive sweetness, “I like going to the gym, catching games, concerts, etc. You?” I probably hadn’t laughed as hard as I did at that message since before things had really gone downhill with Pistachio. And in an effort to not make him feel dumb — which I could tell by his impeccable grammar that he was not — I replied that I too liked concerts, that I hadn’t been to the gym in a while, but needed to go back, and that I enjoyed the theatre and writing. It felt too soon to tell him exactly what I might be writing next, however. This guy, who I only knew by his headline of “Houston Jock”, was, as far as I could tell, actually a nice guy. And as it turned out, we were, in fact, neighbors — sort of.
He lived five houses down from my mother’s where I often was to see my siblings or to help her with one menial and underappreciated task or another. So as I sped to my mother’s from the office without telling her I’d be spending the night at what was nearly three in the morning, I was certain this guy was going to be one of two things: 1. closeted and inexperienced to a fault, or 2. a total fucking creep. Still, I was horny and had emotions to suppress with sex, and I therefore elected to at least meet the guy.
Having not showered since I’d left to go to the office the morning before, I broke into my mother’s house — which was unlocked for god only knows what reason — ran up the stairs, jumped in the shower, blew out my hair, found an old varsity-style t-shirt that was just a bit too big for me and a pair of nice underwear I’d left there a long time before that really made my ass pop, and then put my hair up into a messy, sexy ponytail. I grabbed beer — which I almost never drink — from the garage refrigerator, downed two, tossed two more into my arm, and ran out to the driveway to have a cigarette before he came over. I even put on cologne — something I don’t normally even do for the men I’m dating.
I let this man know where I was, and he asked me if I could hear a truck running from where I stood. In the silence of the early morn, I could hear it and saw a red pick-up flash its lights a few streets down.
“Are we gonna fuck in your truck?” I asked him — unsure as to why we wouldn’t just go inside his house.
“Well, yeah,” he replied. “Didn’t you say that that was your mother’s house?”
I laughed loud enough so that he probably heard me five houses down.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have sex in there. The second floor is completely vacant. Granted, we probably can’t get away with like … full-on anal because it would be really loud and the bed is creaky.”
“I’m cool with that,” he told me before confessing, “I’m just a little nervous. I’m kind of new to this.”
And there it was! The answer to my question about why we couldn’t just have sex inside his house. I knew even before I asked the question — though I should have been tipped off by the part of his responses that included “watching games” — that I was about to have sex with a man who identified as straight. And if we weren’t going into his house, that meant he was likely also married, or he had children whom he did not wish to wake from their slumber.
“So … you’re not … gay?” I asked him.
He answered back with great haste.
“Are you married?” I asked him. “Like … I’m not judging and it probably won’t stop me from sleeping with you because as you can see, I’m the kind of THOT that stands in his mother’s driveway in his underwear smoking a cigarette and drinking Blue Moon before he invites a stranger to have sex with him in his little brother’s old bedroom. But I would just like to know exactly what I’m getting myself into.”
He was quick to respond, “I’m going through a divorce. We can talk about it more in a second. Do you have anything to drink?”
I downed the rest of the third Blue Moon and opened the last one that had been in the fridge.
“Noooope!” I typed. “Just opened the last beer.”
As he approached the house from a few houses down, I noticed he was carrying a few beers in his hand himself. But that wasn’t all that I noticed. In fact, that was probably the least of what I noticed about him. The man was not only taller than me — a rare gem of a man that is incredibly hard to come by — but he wore the best fitting jeans I’d ever seen in my life and looked like a model for a Cavender’s catalog in his sparkling cowboy boots. His t-shirt was snug around his clearly well-cut body and I immediately began to question whether or not he would see me and run home to find someone far more attractive to have sex with.
But he didn’t. In fact, if there was a way for someone to like … super not do something, that was what he did. He super didn’t run from me. Instead, he reached for my hand, bowed down a little before me, and planted a kiss on the back of it.
“You are somehow even sexier in person.”
I felt my eyes turning into hearts like an emoji and it took everything inside of me not to yelp, “HUBBA! HUBBA!” at the sight of this godlike man. Even for so early in the morning, he smelled so fresh and looked so clean and I was just this sort of still kind of wet from the shower bog monster that only really washed his taint because this man had quite enthusiastically said he’d eat my ass without any hesitation. And by the looks of him — by the way he held the door open for me to my own mother’s house and squeezed my hand just the gentlest bit as he followed me up the dark stairway — he was the kind of guy who was really going to put those straight, pussy-eating skills to the test around my now very-hungry butthole.
He took off his shoes, then took his wallet and cell phone out of his front pocket while I scrambled to the restroom to brush the cigarette ick out of my mouth. When I returned, he was still clothed, but he’d made himself quite comfortable and asked me to sit with him so that we could get to know each other.
“Are you sure we won’t wake anyone up?” he asked as he leaned his head back against an arm pressed against the wooden headboard.
“Ha! No,” I told him. “But what are they gonna do? Ground me? I don’t live here. I’m 24 and hot. Why wouldn’t I be having sex with the even hotter stranger from down the lane?”
He laughed and shared, “Grayson. My name is Grayson.”
I smiled. “Anthony,” I told him.
And from there, he told me a little more about himself — what he did for work, how his divorce had come about, the time his wife almost caught him surfing the now-defunct Craigslists personals to hook-up with a man. As it turned out, the cowboy-country thing wasn’t a charade. He’d grown up in Lubbock — gag me — and had moved here for college when he’d gotten a baseball scholarship to some Baptist university I’d forgotten as soon as he’d said it. A Baptist, it turned out, he was not. A baseball player, on the other hand, he definitely was — and he had the body to prove it.
For an hour we just talked — he’d told me how he’d lived in the area where I’d grown up for a while and how he’d met his wife and how they’d fallen apart. When he asked me how well connected I was in the LGBTQ community, I told him about the magazine and that I had served as the volunteer coordinator for Pride Houston for a couple of years — two things he was shocked to realize. And at the end of it all, he’d asked me if I was comfortable — I wasn’t, but I was trying to give him space as his nervousness was quite palpable — on the other end of the bed. And like a gentleman — albeit, again, one in my mother’s home — he arranged a few pillows for me to lie beside him and rest my head on his chest while his fingers grazed that very same shoulder another man’s had not so long ago.
I put Pistachio out of my mind, looking up to focus on the man before me. It was one thing that I’d already called out his name while having sex with someone else — another story for later — but I certainly would not be distracted by him while I was lying in bed with a man who actually did want to be with me.
We drank some more and talked and touched and tickled. After a while, we both had to pee, and I waltzed toward the bathroom to go first, fearful that when I returned he might be preparing himself to make an escape. But when I exited the bathroom, I had to hold my breath as I saw him coming down the stairs, as well. Only, I noticed immediately that neither of his boots were on, and the pocket that had previously held his wallet and cell phone lay flat against his thigh.
“What’s wrong?” he asked in a whisper, my mother’s room just feet away.
I chuckled nervously and played with a loose strand of my hair while looking down at the ground.
“Nothing, nothing,” I said with another nervous laugh while looking down at the ground. But as I did so, I noticed two other feet step toe-to-toe with my own, then felt a hand gently press my chin up to face the man before me.
He whispered, “I’m not going anywhere,” before leaning down just a tad and planting a kiss on my forehead.
As he peed, I had to smoke my anxiety away through a Marlboro on the porch. I was completely and totally unprepared to have sex with this gorgeous man. And why did he want to have sex with me anyway? Mind you, I was in much better shape than I had been in at any point in time since high school. And as of late, men were trying to scoop me up left-and-right. But they weren’t men — not a man like this, anyway. And even the cute or hot ones held no candles Grayson. Physically and at this point in my life, he is the most attractive man I have ever had sex with. He had a cute face, a hot body-ody, and from what I could tell through those Levi’s, likely a perfect penis.
What is it about men? Like … how is it that sometimes the most gorgeous men in the entire world can turn out to also be the nicest, but the ones who are still kind of cute, but not cuter than you by any stretch of the imagination, feel like they have the right to do as they please with you, toss you aside, and then make you feel like shit about yourself? And don’t get me wrong — the gorgeous men can do that, too. All men can. All people can. But something about men and their baseless superiority over my lifetime — most recently so and maybe even most significantly so with Pistachio — had left me feeling like I was something less than I am. In turn, when a man who was literally created in God’s image decides he wants to bless me with his sex, I’m left wondering why the fuck that could possibly be — suspecting an ulterior motive.
But goddamn … bless me with his sex did he ever.
For nearly the next three hours, Grayson and I fucked like we might never fuck again. His hands left me trembling and his mouth closing around any part of me sent mine flying open into sounds of ecstasy. There was no chance in hell that we were going to be quiet. We were so involved with one another, so rhythmically in sync and so lost in not only our own pleasures, but those of the other that we couldn’t have stopped even if we had woken everyone in my mother’s house and his soon-to-be ex-wife five houses down. And when he said that to me at the beginning, called me breath-taking after my glasses were off and the pudge of my stomach was noticeable even in the darkness, I really could have orgasmed right then and there. He hadn’t called me hot or sexy or cute. He had even bypassed beautiful and gorgeous, passed Go, collected $200 dollars, and spent that money on the sweetest compliment any man has ever given me in my life:
And just as certain as I could have ejaculated then, I could have also begun to cry had I not been reveling in the most pure state of absolute rapture I’d ever known. This was a man — again, a man — who didn’t know me, who didn’t know my faults and bad habits, who didn’t know I could be a raging cunt or that I fell in love too easily or that I had just had my heart broken. And while the attraction to the personality is an absolutely integral part of any relationship, it was so validating after having to hear Pistachio tell me that I’m not attractive to hear a man far more attractive than he tell me I was breathtaking.
I didn’t need the validation, mind you. But I’m certainly glad that I got it. Because I think that had I not heard that word come from that man — maybe just some sex angel sent down by God to get me out of my feelings — I might not have found the confidence I needed to get up the next day and dress myself in an adorable outfit with hair and makeup completely done the wedding of two of my dear friends. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to expose my midriff while wearing the shirt I’m wearing right now through the Galleria earlier tonight. I don’t think I would have had the strength to tell Pistachio last night that something he’d said to me was not okay and to give myself the space from him for a few days to decide how I felt about it until he was ready to apologize and until I was ready to accept that apology.
I am a strong fucking person. Willful, determined, talented, and a motherfucking snacc.
And if this man could see that natural beauty in my messy ponytail, with my glasses off somewhere on the floor, without any makeup, and with all my physical imperfections on display, there were going to be plenty of other men who could do the very same thing. And I pity my friend, the man who broke my heart, for having to miss out on those things and all the other incredibles parts of me this man who called me breathtaking didn’t even know.
When the sex was over, he pulled me in, and he held me. I’d come three times, as had he, and the room smelled of sex and sweat and the sheets were drenched and I knew in the days to come that muscles I didn’t even know I had would ache. He kissed me and he laced his fingers between mine again and I told him that since it was now just minutes before seven AM, he probably should get going — even though a really big part of me wanted to stay in his arms and fall asleep.
“Yeah, I know,” he told me with a smile and another kiss. “Just a few more minutes, though.” He played with my fingers and ran his toes up-and-down across my calves. “You really are gorgeous,” he told me, this time. “I have no idea how you’re single.”
“Well you really are good at having sex with men,” I said with a laugh. “I have no idea how you’re married to a woman–”
“Divorcing a woman,” he corrected me with a laugh before kissing my neck and turning me right back on.
I gasped a little. “Are you sure you aren’t gay?” I asked him.
He pulled up some and looked at me.
“No,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’m straight.”
“I don’t know, man,” I told him as I rolled over, cracked the window, and then lit a cigarette. I inhaled. “That was some pretty gay shit we just did.”
It was disappointing to hear, but I didn’t let it bother me. It was his life. If he had to live unhappily in a closet, that was his business. I wasn’t going to burden him with questions and self-doubt. As confusing as it was, I figured he probably was a little gay, but that he just couldn’t be open about that for whatever reason. I had to respect it. That said, I’d happily fuck him six ways to Sunday any other chance I got.
As I led him out of the house again, he pressed me up against the brick wall of the front porch and kissed me again and I could feel myself growing erect, as I could he through his jeans. It was such a powerful kiss — even for it to have just been with a stranger. I knew I’d see this guy again, and certainly I’d fuck him again, but if we never again traversed those five separating houses, I at least had the memory of those four hours we spent together, that electrifying kiss, and the sound of him calling me breathtaking resounding against the walls of my mind.
What. A. Man …
To All the Men I’ve Ever Loved
Less Than Butterflies, No. 24
“I have been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted. Where is he?!”
— Charlotte York
This entry in the Less Than Butterflies column series is not a story, per se. Rather, it is an innocuous statement to all the men I’ve ever loved, all the men I’ve ever fucked, all the men who have ever put their hands on me, and all the men to come.
This past year, I fell in love with someone who — quite frankly — has hurt me without meaning to do so. I’d like to say I fell in love quickly, but it seems as though it didn’t. I’d been nursing these feelings for months on end without ever knowing I was letting them grow — without knowing they were there to begin with. It wasn’t until we shared an intimate night together and a wonderful weekend with one another that I truly realized what was happening and how long it had been going on without my cognizance.
I’d fallen in love with a man I did not find physically attractive, that I’d never have considered a true contender to spend my life with, and that I really wasn’t sure I even liked that much.
But in truth, he was, and remains to be, a wonderful man; and he was my very best friend by the time I’d realized what happened. It’s important that I say that, not because I’m afraid he’ll read this. Rather, it’s important I say that because I don’t want anyone to think badly of this nameless, faceless man. He’s a good person, with a giant heart that he shares with so many people — some worthy, some not. I don’t think I’d have fallen for him in the first place if he weren’t so wonderful. He is giving, and kind, and funny, and a wonderful friend who keeps me calm when I am all but ready to throw up my hands and give up. He makes sure that his people are taken care of, and he jumps hurdles to ensure that they’re happy with him. He does so with me, especially. And I don’t take that for granted. Every single check he’s picked up, every last night he’s spent with me either on the phone or in person while I was upset, every last smile he’s greeted me with — those things do mean something to me. In fact, they mean more than just something. They mean everything.
This isn’t a man-bashing column. This isn’t me picking fights. This is me genuinely and earnestly trying to say something I’ve been trying to tell him and that he’s given me every opportunity to say. But because of who I am — I haven’t been able to say it to his face. Maybe that makes me a coward. Maybe not.
As of late, he told me that he didn’t think I was being honest with him about all of my feelings — and he was right. So I tried to be more honest with him about those feelings, but like I said, I never could quite get them to be honest as I was talking to him. I was embarrassed and I was ashamed.
Why? Because that’s how all the men before him — reaching all the way back to my father — have made me feel about my emotions all my life. That’s not his fault, of course. I know that; and I hope he will know that I don’t say that as a means of blaming him for my issues that were conceived long before ever meeting him. It’s just one of those things that needs to be said; because even though he and I are both aware of this, others who may read this may not be.
So I’m going to use this opportunity to be more honest with him. He may read it. He may not. But I know now (as I revise the final draft of it) that I feel immensely better having had the opportunity to get these things out of my system. And, yes, I’m going to do this in writing, because that’s the way I know to do it best — and about that most of you are already well aware. I do hope he’ll understand that I’m not saying these things out of anger. Quite the contrary, I’m saying them because I have so much palpable, uncontrollable love for him. I’m saying them because I have to — and because this is the only way I’m ever truly able to be honest. Right here. In writing. In this column. Every single week.
Be advised, however, that this column — while specific to him — is not only for him. This column is for every single man that I have ever given my love to, and even the ones with whom I’ve never made it quite that far. That’s because while the more specific details of my relationship with this man may not be applicable to each and everyone of you, many of the issues I had to confront because of the rest of you were very similar. If not in circumstance, they were so in the emotions they brought out of me. So, dear men — the ones I have slept with, the ones I have let put their hands on me, the ones I have been raped by, the ones I have had crushes on, the ones who told me I wasn’t good enough, that I was too fat — but especially so the ones that I fell in love with: this is for all of you. Read it as if you are the man I address in this next line:
You asked me to be honest about how I was feeling; so here goes. And I don’t want you to be upset with me for this, because I’ve tried saying these things to you every other way possible (on the phone, on Facetime, in texts, in person), but I haven’t been able to do so. And I know we had put this to bed just the other night, but it’s kept me from sleeping in my own because I know I haven’t been honest with you as much as I should have been. So I need to do this. I need to get these things off of my chest before I implode into a showering dust of my own bitterness and self-hatred. And when I’m done, I hope that we can then really try to be best friends as we were were just before that fateful September night, right before everything changed. So, again, here it goes:
Your fat jokes gave me a complex about my weight. I know they weren’t meant to hurt my feelings, and that you thought I was in on them, too. I’m not angry about them now. But looking back, I realize that I was, and that every single time I heard one, I had to fight back tears or take a breath before I could respond. After each one, I would skip a meal, or snort cocaine, or pop an extra Adderall that day, or stick a toothbrush down my throat over the bowl some filthy toilet. When I tried to tell you that they hurt my feelings, you told me I was being too sensitive and that we should be allowed to joke with each other like that, because that’s what friends do. But do you know that you’re the only friend I’ve ever had in my entire life who has made a joke about my weight? Do you know that I thought about those comments every single time I had to eat in front of you — in front of anyone, for that matter. Do you know that I thought about that time you said to a mutual friend of ours right in front of me that you’d never sleep with me, and I thought that it was because I was just too fat for you? I didn’t know why I cared then — we’d only just begun to get to know one another — but now I do; it was because for some reason, I felt like I needed to be validated by you. Because maybe, just maybe, even back then I wanted you to love me before I ever knew that I loved you.
And now, not even a year later, I’m 50 lbs lighter than I was when we first met. And I’m not upset about that part. I’m not, really. I’m hot as hell, now. But I wish you’d have just said you were sorry, then. Because even that thing from so long ago still eats up at me all of the time. It was enough to make me wonder, even now, if it was my weight that categorically thrust me out of line with the people that were good enough for you to have sex with, to fall in love with. Is that the thing that’s wrong with me that keeps you from looking at me as a person worthy of your affections and attractions?
I used to think it was; but now I don’t think so. I mean … it didn’t stop you from putting your hands on me that night. It didn’t stop you from holding me; it didn’t stop you from running your hand between the back of my pants and the skin of my ass at that godforsaken dive bar we went to after partying all night. It didn’t stop you from grinding your ass against my pelvis, and it didn’t stop you from reaching over to hold my hand. Most significant in my mind however is the occurrence most recent: it sure as hell didn’t stop you in that weird, giant booth near the bar right before you told me you had to throw up when you slipped the fingers of each of your hands between those of my own and spread my knees apart with your legs and slipped between them and leaned down and tried to kiss me.
Do you even remember that? … Honestly. Do you?
And I don’t think my mind is ever going to let me forget it; and that’s because I wanted to so badly. I wanted to feel wanted by you, even when you were as messy as you were that night and I had to control my own Molly roll to make sure that you didn’t dehydrate and die and that I didn’t leave you with any kind of memory that would have made it seem as if I’d taken advantage of you. That’s why I didn’t let you kiss me. I wasn’t going to do that to myself — putting myself through the agony of thinking it meant something you’d say later it didn’t and having to feel rejected by you once again.
But that’s just the problem, sir. Deny it all you want — it did mean something. You can blame it on the alcohol or the Molly, if that makes you feel better. You can say that we all do things we shouldn’t do when we’re fucked up; but any person anywhere will tell you that in that state, we aren’t making choices we wouldn’t make when we’re sober because we wouldn’t want to. We’re making choices we wouldn’t make when we’re sober because we’re too afraid to. Those are mutually exclusive causes. The night I crawled up next to you in bed, laid my head on your shoulder, let you wrap your arm around me while I traced circles on your hip and your nipple and you ran your fingers over my shoulder and moaned quietly as you gritted your teeth together — I made a choice. Maybe it wasn’t the right choice. I even apologized, and you told me not to be sorry.
You made a choice, too, that night. I made a choice that I probably would not have made if I’d been sober that night, but I made it because I wanted to and my inhibitions were down. And, in turn, I unlocked the Pandora’s Box I’d been hiding in my chest for most of the time I’d known you. It was so well hidden, in fact, that I didn’t even know it was there to begin with. And I can say with certainty now — in hindsight and with weeks worth of thought — that it was a decision I wanted to make for a very long time, but I was too afraid to let myself make because I wasn’t ready to be rejected by you.
I may not have known early on that I had these feelings for you; but one thing that I always have known since the moment we met that if this were to ever happen — if these feelings were to ever come to be — that you would reject me. I do not fit into the aesthetic that pleases you from one person to the next. Or, at least, that’s what I thought for a long time. I thought that it was my weight, as I said before, or that it was just that I wasn’t the kind of guy’s guy that was attractive to you, or one of the twinks that parades around in circles around you vying for your attention. I thought it was because I wasn’t conventionally beautiful. I still don’t know what it is — and I kind of, in a very sick way, want to know. There’s a part of me that needs that closure. But I think hearing that reason might actually kill me. It might actually push me over the edge of my own insecurities. Because, as it stands, you’ve at one point or another slept with or have been attracted to or have had feelings for all of your other friends. And let me be quite frank:
I’m a fucking supernova in comparison to most of them. I am the funniest person I — and most other people — know. I am hyperintelligent and quick-witted, and insightful. I am talented in ways that shock even me sometimes. And despite what your own jaded, convoluted, bigoted ideas of beauty might tell you, I am fucking gorgeous. Since just this evening (that’s less than 12 hours ago) I’ve had exactly twenty-five different men try to sleep with me on Grindr, 15 Tinder matches, a couple at a Halloween party try to invite me to have a threesome with them, one of my closest friends ask me to go home with him, another man ask me to dinner, and a stranger tell me I am the most beautiful person he’s ever met in his life.
I’m. A fucking. Snacc.
And I should feel like one. Because I am beautiful; and the fact that I have slept with 103 men in my life should tell you that men really like me. And, honestly, it isn’t just about the sex for them. I mean … the sex is great, don’t get me wrong. I literally rock men’s worlds because I’m really good at it. But it’s all the other stuff, too. It’s my laugh. It’s my jokes. It’s my smile. It’s the way I twirl my hair and bite my lip and stand my right foot up on its toes when I get butterflies in my tummy. It’s the way I make them feel important and heard because that’s how I treat people.
It’s how I’ve always treated you.
What I have to offer that I do not give to those men — I don’t know that most of them could handle. I don’t know if you could handle it. Because it’s a lot of fucking love; and I think that’s really where this all has come to its inevitable impasse. I have spent my entire life shelling out love to people I thought deserved it, only to have it sloughed back into my arms to the point that the serving tray is now spilling over and there’s enough to give the population of Brazil.
I don’t want to be presumptuous here — but I think that’s exactly why you can’t accept it. You can say over-and-over again that you just don’t feel that way about me; and I will believe you. Because right now, I don’t think you do. I think that if you did, this would be easier. But your actions have spoken volumes in comparison to your words. And those actions, they actually are those of a person who loves the person for whom they’re performed. I should know. My entire life I’ve wanted someone to give me the goodness that you’ve given me; and I have gotten every other thing from every other person until I met you. And now I’ve gotten the thing I wanted all along — even if incompletely; even if it’s stolen from another or fleeting and momentary. It brings me so much joy. Spotty, yes. Punctuated, of course. But joy, nevertheless.
I think something about that terrifies you. I think it terrifies you to even entertain the thought that I might actually be able to make you happy, or that you might have the capacity to love someone like me — someone so vastly different than what you’re used to. I can say that with a great deal of certainty because that same terror is the exact bolt of lightning that struck me in my stomach when I finally came to the realization that I was having these feelings for you. And I struggled with it like a sinner trying to escape the ninth circle of hell. I struggled with it because it’s not what I wanted. It isn’t what I planned. It isn’t the future I pictured when I thought about finding someone who really made me feel safe, and whole, and at home. Yet, that night — for the very first time in my entire life; with years of neglectful parents and asshole boyfriends and an absent father and men who had raped me and left me feeling dead inside and out — that night that I laid in your arms and kissed you on your chest and listened to you breathe and absorbed every last stroke of your fingers against my skin into my memory, I finally was able to exhale. And I thought to myself, This is where I’m supposed to be.
I hate that right now. I hate it so much. As my heart crumbles and descends to the pit of my stomach to weigh it down with dread like sand in an hourglass, this love begets hatred. Not for you. I could never hate you. I don’t even hate what has happened. I feel this intense loathing because I’m out here feeling this way all alone. And I know — because I felt that way the last day of September — that it isn’t a matter of you not loving me. I know that you do, even if not quite the way I do you. This is all a matter of the fact that you won’t let yourself. Instead, you choose to perpetuate a cycle of vicious and heartbreaking tragedies in your own life and to numb them with substances and hollow friendships that are not what they once were. And sure, I may not have the history with you that those friends and loves do — and I’m never going to. I came into your life well after they did, and each year that I know you, they’ll always have known you longer — known you more. But that, as well, is not something I can control. I’d have come earlier if I could have; believe me. But I’m here now for a reason; even if neither of us know just yet what that reason is.
Although, I do know that this isn’t the reason. It isn’t so that I can exist in this misery and self-doubt and conscious thought spiral of what it is about me that isn’t good enough for you.
I’m plenty good for you. I know that for a fact, even if that knowledge falters at times and leaves me in doubt and tears and heartbreak. Because I am the brightness of the day, and the comfort of the night; the warmth of the summer, and the crispness of the winter; the quench of water, and the passion of fire. And I am as certain as the tides will roll to the shore and as embers burn to ash that no matter who loves you in your life, no matter how much they love you, or in what way, or for whatever reason, it will not ever be the same as the love that I have for you.
I know I’m saying ‘love’ a lot. And I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. But you did ask me to be honest; and that’s all I’m doing.
This isn’t a letter of expectation. One of hope, maybe; possibly even one of defeat. A sheet of copy paper with words scribbled across it that has transfigured into a white flag of surrender. But I do have hope — even at surrender — that when you do realize that I’m not making this all up in my head, that when you can do the very thing you’ve asked of me — and you will; I know that much — that it isn’t too late. I hope that someone else won’t have swept me off my feet that I won’t ever love nearly as much but will have settled upon because enough time has passed and I’m complacent in taking the next best thing. I hope that you won’t deny yourself the fervor of these feelings, because you deserve them. From the worship I lay down upon the ground you’ve traversed, to the feeling of wanting to come home because it finally feels like home, to the excitement of waking up to foray a new adventure or to lie in bed and let the world pass by just to soak in another moment that is sure to end sometime, I hope you get to have that with me. Not for my sake.
Because, sir, I knew this that night I realized I was right where I was supposed to be:
Even before we’d ever met, before we’d ever crossed paths, it has always been you.
And it saddens me to think you might deny yourself that happiness, that love. Because you deserve — more so now than ever — to know love and happiness without a sell-by date; and that is what I want for you. And it may seem like you’re happy now, and that’s amazing. I hope you are. Though history will soon repeat itself, and we’ll be back at square one. And I’ll be your friend then, and I’ll listen, and I’ll do whatever you ask to make it better for you. Just know that to deny yourself a real opportunity to be happy because it isn’t what you thought it would be, or because you’re afraid of what others might think or say is stupid. Because guess what.
True love — true happiness — true success — they are never what we expect they will be. And as for all the things people might think and say: they’re already thinking them; already saying them.
I should know.
I’m the one who has to stand there and correct them when they ask. Caught somewhere between a half-truth and a half-lie, I have to tell them that we’re just friends, nothing more. And we are — I know that. I’m not delusional. But this has not been just a friendship since that lone September night. I don’t know exactly what it has been, because this is all uncharted territory, but I know it’s been a friendship and then something else. Something weird. Something I can’t explain. And try as we both might, it never will go back to being just a friendship. Some lines you can’t uncross. Some walls can’t be rebuilt. Some fabrics cannot be sewn back together once they’ve been cut.
And right now, we’re a little cut from our own cloths. But the beautiful thing about that is that even if we can’t ever go back to being what we were before, we can still be sewn together to create something far more beautiful … no matter what that something is.
When you’re ready, be something beautiful with me. When you’re ready, take a breath, close your eyes, open your own Pandora’s Box that rests deep within you, feel my love, and take a chance on the thing you would have never expected to be the very thing you’d been looking for all along. Because none of this is coming from nowhere, honey. All these actions — all these things you feel the need to explain with reaching rationalizations … they’re coming from somewhere. Every touch, every almost-kiss, every thought you wish you’d kept in your head rather than on your lips — you’re putting them out there for a reason; and that reason isn’t a drug or a drink. But you’ll figure that out when you’re ready. Or you won’t.
I just hope it doesn’t take you seeing someone else who already has it figured out with me wrapped around their finger for you to get there, because I don’t want you to suffer this pain with which I’m living. You deserve so much more. So very much more.
But then again … so do I. And though I have waited to be loved my entire life, I have never let that stop me from moving forward with my life, reaching for successes, garnering acclaim, making mistakes, learning lessons, or anything in between. I will not now, nor have I ever, wait in the wings for any man. I stand in the spotlight, because I’m the goddamn star. And while my heart may have been yours before it ever pumped its first beat, that does not mean it can’t be stolen by someone who treats it better while you aren’t paying attention to it. Ask any of the other men I’ve ever loved.
The only difference is that I loved them a helluva lot less than I love you.
But lastly, just know this: I told you just the other day that if circumstances were to change, I would fight for you. But I’m telling you now that I don’t think I will. I’m done fighting for men; and I refuse to do it for you unless I know that you would do the same for me. I’ve been fighting for the love of men for as long as I can remember; and in order for you to ever take me seriously, I need to stop doing that. But that isn’t why I won’t fight for you — and it isn’t because I don’t think you’re worth fighting for — I do. I honest to God do.
It’s just like I said before: I deserve to be loved by a man who thinks I’m just as much worth fighting for. And someday, in the future when things are just as different in our lives as they are now from a year ago, I hope that you’re that man. Because I think we could be really happy.
More than just happy, even.