“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” –Margaret Atwood
Monday morning, I get a text from Clark: “So can you come on Wednesday?” I have no idea what he’s talking about. “Come to what?” I inquire. “Oh, that thing at Noah’s. We talked about it for like ten seconds at Tigerheat.” I feel a little crazy because I only had one drink that night, and I have absolutely no memory of that conversation. Apparently, Clark invited me to a gay marriage benefit, which he’s co-hosting. “What should I wear?” I ask. “Just something with a collar,” he says. Considering who is running this party, his answer could be interpreted in a kinky way, but since marriage is a decidedly conservative decision, even in the gay community, I decide on a (studless) polo shirt. He emails me the invite, which includes a list of event sponsors–these individuals are all gAy List. Not the usual scenesters, but legitimate, established people whose names you might recognize. I also see that this is a rather expensive benefit, and decide a simple collared shirt isn’t going to cut it.
The morning of the benefit, I put on my favorite button down and black jeans–but also pack dress pants, my hottest skinny tie, and a maroon sweater in a bag. I’m already over dressed for work and know my co-workers will already be asking why I’m so dressy all day. At the end of the day, I leave work fifteen minutes early to makes sure I’m not late. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but L.A. traffic is hellish…except for this afternoon. I make it to Noah’s neighborhood in less than twenty minutes, which makes me about forty minutes early, so I drive around for a bit. But I can only drive around for so long, so with twenty minutes left, I decide I’ll drive down Noah’s street, park, and get changed in my car. A sound plan, one would think, but as I turn the bend near his driveway, I’m slightly panicked to be greeted by an army of valets. Shit. Well, I guess I’ll be attending in what I’m wearing. It’s oddly humbling to be handing Valet #9 the keys to my dirt-caked thirteen year-old car, right behind Valet #3 hopping into a shiny new Mercedes. When I step out of the car, I smooth my shirt, which fortunately is still tucked in.
As I walk up the driveway, I’m stopped by a man in his late twenties. “And what’s your name?” He questions–I tell him. He’s a little snooty. “Hmm. You’re not on my list.” I look at him like “what do you want me to do about it” before he asks, “are you sure you’re not under another name?” “I mean, that’s my name. I might be under my cousin Clark’s name. He’s the one who invited me.” He checks. “Yeah, he’s not on here either,” he says. “I mean, he’s one of the co-hosts,” I say starting to get a little irritated just when his boss struts down the steep concrete in some happening stilettos. “What’s the problem?” She asks. The guy tells her I’m not on the list. “I’m Clark’s cousin,” I tell her. “Oh, go on up, sweetie,” she smiles. “Thanks,” I say.
I’ve been to Noah’s house before, but it’s still absolutely breathtaking: the front made up of all bay windows, most of which open up like doors to the courtyard area and pool. Also, you can see all of Los Angeles–it’s basically incredible. When I make it up to the courtyard, I notice two things: I’m overdressed despite not changing into my intended outfit, and there are more people already here than I expected. Which would be a relief, if I recognized a single person. I head straight for the bathroom and take a leak. Where to next? Like you need to ask. You know my narrow ass is at that bar. “What can I get you?” the hunky bartender asks. I want hard liquor, but settle on white wine–I have an appearance to maintain, you know, the one that I’ve spent the day messing up. Just then, I spot Noah. He’s standing with one of his boys–one I don’t recognize, a single guy, and a couple, who I can tell are most certainly not LA Gays. Noah introduces us. “We just got in from New York,” the couple tells me. “God, I miss New York,” I say although I’m pretty sure it comes out less bitchy than that sounds. Noah gives them a tour of the grounds, and I start to chat with his boy. This one’s nice, and his credentials assure me he’s rather bright. We even get into a nice conversation, and I tell him about Clark. “How do you know Noah?” I ask innocently enough. “The internet,” he says blushing, but I give him a reassuring smile that says “don’t be embarrassed.” “This is actually the first time we’ve met,” he says. A glimmer of irony tickles me as Noah rejoins us, pulling along a skinny, preppy guy with a high energy, who looks to be in his mid thirties.
He looks excited as if Noah’s promised him a surprise. “I wanted to introduce you to Clark’s ex, Craig.” Craig looks at me, trying to figure out who I am, the anticipation killing him. His expression reads: Is this kid his boytoy? My expression reads: No, I’m not. “Craig, this is Clark’s cousin,” Noah continues, slightly amused. Craig’s eyes light up like a kid on Christmas. “SO nice to meet you,” he says shaking my hand and noticeably not breaking eye contact. As fascinated as he seems to be by me, I would never in a million years have picked Craig out of a line up to be Clark’s ex boy friend. He’s not so masculine, thin, Jewish and outspoken–so not Clark’s type. But he’s quite nice. “I need to know everything,” he insists. I tell him that I’ve just moved here, where I went to school, and where I’m working. “Are you single?” He asks although it doesn’t come across as prying. “Yes,” I say simply. I look over and notice Clark sees us talking on the other side of the pool. “And you’re out to your parents?” He says, almost matter of factly. “Yep.” “Look at you, you young thing out and proud to everyone with your big, bad cousin hosting a gay marriage thing-a-majig and he can’t even say a word about it to his family,” he says with his first hint of snark albeit relatively benign. Clark’s mentioned Craig in passing, but I don’t know much other than that they’d been together for more than five years. Craig sees someone walking by and turns to me. “I have to go catch up with my friend–I haven’t seen him in months! But we should chat later,” he says with a smile, then disappears into the growing crowd.
I turn back to Noah’s circle and am a little stunned to find myself face to face with an Academy Award winner, who will presumably be giving a speech tonight. I’ve found myself in close proximity to many powerful people, but he has this mellow yet jubilant warmness about him. Also, he’s friends with The Writer. When there’s a small pause in the conversation, he offers his hand: “I don’t think I’ve met you, I’m…” “I know who you are,” I say sincerely, “I saw your movie a week after I came out to my family, and I can’t tell you how comforting it was.” “Thank you,” he says as though this was the first time someone had ever said such a thing. “Well, I’m glad you’re here,” he tells me, placing his hand on my upper arm for a moment before excusing himself as people gather outside for the speeches. I’m eager to hear his, and head outside when someone calls my name. It’s Michael, an acquaintance, who went to my school although I didn’t meet him until after I moved to L.A.
Michael and I share so many of the same interests so deeply that we’re just about the same person. Except he knows almost nothing about the gay scene. I didn’t expect him to be here, but he’s been invited as a guest of his sister who works closely with the mayor. I’ve been super busy and haven’t seen Michael in a while, so we go in and catch up on everything from work to TV shows as the speeches commence. “I think I’m going to leave my job soon,” I tell him. “I’ll let you know if they have any openings at our offices,” he offers. The speech ends and, I hear the Academy Award winner being introduced. Michael is mid-way through a story and intent on finishing it in detail. After a minute, I interrupt and tell Michael I really want to hear this guy’s speech. “I’ll be out in a second he says,” as he looks at his phone. I head outside, hurrying past the food toward the courtyard where I see a couple hundred people listening, transfixed on his lovely words when SMACK! I’ve managed to run directly into the bay window, thinking it was an opening, no frame, latch, or handle to warn me. Panic rises and my cheeks flush as I look up and see almost every single attendee staring at me, and not the speaker, (who luckily can’t see me). I’m frozen for a few seconds that feel more like eternity. I did NOT just run into a window. There’s no way I just ran into a window. No, you did. Snap back to reality. I do, staring at the mark my nose and forehead left on the window, greeted by the snorts of some nearby twinks, which erupts to laughter from a few more attendees, as I stumble past the glass window out the actual door frame. A few people step forward. “Are you okay?” One of them asks, legitimately worried. Another smirks. Disoriented, my eyes get big, and I turn around, pause, then run away, speechless. Back inside, I nearly run into Michael. “I was just about to come find you, let’s go outside…” “No,” I say, “we can’t go out there.” “Why not?” He asks with a curious smile. “I just…walked into a window.” “Oh,” he says pursing his lips then spitting into a laugh. I start into a howling laughter too, and have to sit down. We laugh for almost two minutes straight, then hear the speech end. “Shit, I really have to pee,” I tell Michael, anticipating the hundreds of people bum-rushing the bathroom. “Alright,” Michael says, “if I don’t see you again, have a good night, and let’s hang out some time.” We hug, and I run (although this time cautiously–I don’t want to run into anything else tonight) to the bathroom.
There’s already a line of four for the bathroom. Two guys go into together–this could be good or bad. Either they’re speeding up the line by crossing swords or they’re engaging in some kind intimate and/or illegal activity that will take at least twice as long as a couple guys peeing. Based on the wait time, I’d bet on the latter. Meanwhile, the line wraps around the wall, and I notice several people looking at me. One guy in the middle of the line points at me and whispers to his partner. Good. I have fans! The guy in front of me then taps me on the shoulder: “Excuse me. You’re the guy who ran into the window, right?” Aw, the moment of truth–I have minimal shame. “Yes. Yes, that was me.” A couple of gays behind me give mock-applause. “I could have used that encouragement a couple minutes ago!” I joke. “It happens,” shoulder-tap guy says. “I know,” I say, “sadly, I’ve actually seen someone run into a window here before.” “Had a little bit too much to drink?” Someone behind me asks. “No, actually, I’m just this coordinated naturally,” I assure. In fact, I’ve had exactly one glass of white wine.
Finally, the guys come out of the bathroom, and I empty my bladder a minute later, then head outside, where I’m greeted by some of Clark’s friends. “Nice job,” one of them says laughing. “I do what I can,” I say. “What happened?” Clark asks. Good. On the one hand, there were so many people in the way, he couldn’t see. But his friends recount the story. Bad. On the other hand, a sea of people just watched me walk face-first into a window. Awesome. I always manage to do something wildly embarrassing around Clark. It’s like Murphy’s Law but only applicable when I’m in proximity to my cousin. “You should come out with us,” Clark’s friend says. “I couldn’t,” I say, “I have work tomorrow and I’m exhausted. Also, my face hurts because…you know, I smashed it into glass.”
When Clark and the guys shuffle out, I decide I’m about ready to go. I start to say my goodbyes when I’m approached a convivial fellow. “Hello there. I’m Mickey Manley.” “Hi Mickey Manley,” I say with a smile and introduce myself. “You seem a little young to be in this crowd,” he says with a friendly yet inquisitive demeanor. “My cousin is one of the co-hosts,” I explain. He doesn’t know Clark, but I learn that he’s Noah’s neighbor. “Tonight’s the first night I formally met him, actually,” he says. “Are you from LA?” “No, I just move here from New York,” I say. “Oh, were you going to school there?” “Yeah,” I reply. Turns out he’s an alumni of my university. “So what are you doing out here?” He asks. “Trying to make a living as a writer,” I explain, “although I’m doing some other work right now.” “That’s awesome. I’m a writer.” “Oh, really? What kind of writing?” I ask. “All kinds–theatre, short films, television. I worked on this one show you might’ve heard of.” I have. “Which season?” I inquire. “Five,” he says. “So you were there before one of my favorite lady writers.” He’s impressed with my knowledge of TV writer trivia, and I enjoy showing off. “Which other shows do you watch?” I ask. “Mostly just reality now,” he says. I scoff. “Such garbage! And you’re a writer, no less,” I say, partially joking. I think he’s bruised a little, but he’s still interested. Just then, his friend interrupts us and tells him he’s ready to go. “Is that your boyfriend?” I ask. “No, he’s just a friend. How bout you? Do you have a boyfriend?” I give a little, unexpected laugh: “I am very single.” “You’re not even seeing anyone?” He asks. Not that it’s any of his business, but I tell him, “It’s complicated. Very complicated.” Complicated enough to write a book about. “I’ve actually been called a prude, recently,” I continue. “Well there are worse things to be called,” he retorts. “I suppose there are.” His friend signals him. “Well, it was nice to meet you,” I say. “Don’t you want my email address?” He asks. Interesting choice–I’m not sure that anyone has offered up their email instead of a phone number, but it certainly backs up my assertions about his personality. I see his friend heading toward the driveway. “I better stumble home,” he says with a certain jolliness.
I say a few more goodbyes, and head down the driveway, handing my ticket to the Valet #11. Waiting on the curb, I see the Academy Award winner. “That was a nice speech,” I say even though I only heard part of it. We chat for a minute before his car comes, and he pats my shoulder with a goodbye. I wait a few minutes while Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, and pretty much every other expensive car you could imagine comes down the road and the big league gays drive away. Finally, my ride, in all of its shaky glory arrives. I go to tip the valet and realize I have no cash, so I apologize abashedly. I’m pretty sure he feels sorry for me or at least gets it. Driving through the Hollywood Hills, my shitty GPS loses reception, and I get lost for about 20 minutes. When I find my way to flat land, I call The Writer and tell him about my intimate encounter with the window. “Jealous?” I joke. He doesn’t really think it’s funny, but I do. “Come over,” he asks. When I get there, he’s angry about work crap, and I do my best to make him feel better. My efforts aren’t good enough, and we go to bed–he with a hot head.