“Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions.” –Woody Allen
The rest of the week is turbulent at best. There’s no more talk of plans for my birthday, and The Writer and I don’t seem comfortable together. Except when we’re sleeping. Thursday morning, I ask him if he wants to go dancing at Tigerheat, but I don’t get a response until I’m leaving work: “I don’t know.” I’m uncertain how to feel about the weird air that I’ve returned to, but the tension makes my insides feel like twisting scrap metal. Regardless, I won’t let this keep me down. Instead, I call Trick Bradley, who I’ve been getting along with recently. We went out for a drink in WeHo and hung out a few other times. He broke up with his boyfriend, which was a bummer, but he handled it well–better than I would’ve–and he’s actually pretty fun to hang out with. Nice kid, too. “Let’s go dancing tonight,” I say. “Okay. Is The Writer coming?” “No,” I say decidedly, “we’re going by ourselves.”
Bradley suggests we go early, given the line at the club can be utterly ridiculous. Normally this isn’t a problem since I go with LAGs of status, who have connections on the inside or who are on the inexplicable perma-list of V.I.P.s. Despite arriving early, there’s no parking to be found, so Bradley and I go splitsies on a sketchy pay lot a few blocks away and make our way to the venue. It’s 10PM, a little more than an hour earlier than I’ve ever been, and there’s no line. Despite this, the bouncer makes us wait for a couple of minutes before acknowledging our presence. What’s worse is, I have to pay for admission, something I’ve never done before–liberation is a luxury that comes at a cost. And that cost is $10. (But honestly, don’t they know who I am by now?) The steep cover is ridiculous considering when we walk in, it’s a ghost town. It’s like being the first one to show up to a high school dance. So we retreat to the upstairs “bleachers.” Sitting alone and bored to death, Bradley’s phone buzzes. It’s a text from The Writer: “Pick me up on your way.” “What should I say?” Bradley asks, probably embarrassed by how early we’re here. I grab his phone and write back, “We’re at a bar nearby, so I can’t.” I’m annoyed that The Writer ignored me all day and that he’s now trying to piggyback on my plans for the evening. Plus, why did he text Bradley instead of me? He’s acting strangely. But tonight isn’t about The Writer–it’s about fun. And since it’s cinco de mayo, I’m on a tequila kick (warning: danger), so I order a shot and a margarita to chase. And we’re on our way.
…Only not, because the place is still empty 30 minutes later. Even as it starts to fill in, I don’t see anyone who I recognize from our birds eye view. Probably because everyone I know is smart enough to know not to go out dancing before ten. “Give me your phone,” I demand of Bradley. You know how scientists design some substance that can withstand like a million degrees of heat, but they only use it for some dumb experiment then it sits in a lab for a decade until someone from the military is like, “oh yeah, we definitely could’ve used that,” so they buy the patent and spray said substance on everything they can find? Well I’m pretty sure grindr was created under similar circumstances prior to its proliferation as cruising gaydar. Yes, grindr might finally do me some good, so I launch the app to see who’s nearby. It looks like The Writer is a little less than a mile away. I can’t help but read through his profile…which says he’s “24” (not even close, although I thought he was 26 when I first met him) and “straight-acting” — his words. I hate this term. So what? You’re into vag? Great, then go fuck a girl, asshole. There’s nothing that isn’t condescending about the phrase, which in every way connotes that there is something inferior and behaviorally wrong with being gay. I look at his picture one more time, then go back to searching for another recognizable face. And I see one: Turtle. “Fuck,” Bradley says. “That guy keeps texting me.” “He’s such a creep,” I say. Turtle’s kid friend has since returned to wherever he came from, so Turtle has moved on to searching out any new potential too-young-to-drink boys to victimize. I was wrong. Nothing good ever comes of grindr.
“Let’s go downstairs,” I suggest, and we do. And it’s our lucky day! A random tequila-sampling booth is set up in the lobby, so I New York my way through the crowd of sleeveless pretty boys and shrieking queens up to the table and down what I can get my hands on. “I’m feeling better now,” I tell Bradley. He looks at me like “whatever,” and I lead him to the VIP lounge. “How are we going to get in?” He asks. “I pulled your ass over a bar patio wall last week, this is easy apple pie,” I tell him, not particularly sure what it is I’m saying. It takes less than twenty seconds for the bouncer to be so engrossed in some mundane distraction that we walk right past him.
Near the VIP bar, William is waving at me. William is a Tigerheat regular, friend of The Writer, and politically angry. And usually not in the good way. The Writer also informed me (on the night that he told me he just wanted to be friends before trying to get me to have a threesome with him) that he gave William his permission to sleep with me. Which through the lens of sexual politics I find completely appalling, but in the moment works well for me because William is looking fine tonight. “Want a drink?” He asks wrapping his arm around my neck, his big bicep bulging out of his shirt and against my cheek. “Sure.” He orders then squeezes my side. “I’ll see you a little later,” he says before disappearing.
I share the drink with Bradley (because I’m such a good friend), and we head to the dance floor. I hurl myself into the crowd and break it down to a Britney beat for about five minutes but decide I’m sweating too much, too early, so I take a “water” break. Bradley looks relieved. As we approach the bar, I see Noah. “Hey cous,” he says–his usual salutation. “Hey!” I say cheerily. I’m in a great mood at this point. “What can I get you guys to drink?” He asks, before ordering us margaritas. I give him a “thanks” hug, but get out of the way as he seems to have the attention of a boy. I mingle a little more with people I sort of but don’t really recognize while Bradley lingers behind me. “Liven up!” I yell to him. Luckily he does when my friend Cash swings by. He’s drunk and high–his usual state (well at Tigerheat anyway), and the three of us dance like the flaming homos we are. By which I mean we (mostly jokingly) grind, thrust, and swing our arms. Some lame song from Glee comes on, which is an immediate turn off so I head toward the back where I see a promoter my cousin Clark introduced me to a few weeks ago. Before I approach him, I check myself to make sure I’m not drunk. I’m definitely drunk, which is good too, but I better my posture before I say “hey.” We chat for a minute in the VIP section when I spot The Writer. “Well it was nice seeing you again,” I say to the promoter, who hands me a drink ticket. “Thanks,” I say genuinely.
I head over to the bar and slide my narrow ass in next to The Writer. “Hey,” I say coolly. “Oh, hey,” he says. “Watcha getting?” I ask, already knowing the answer. “Vodka Redbull,” he responds. I order and don’t say anything else. When I get my drink, I turn to see The Writer talking to an uninterested Bradley. I take a little sip of my drink and decide I definitely don’t need to be drinking any more. The Writer is ranting about something that he probably won’t ever think about after tonight. Then there’s a lull in the conversation. “What did you do today?” I ask. “Worked a little and hung out with a friend.” There’s not really much else to say. William comes over and catches up with The Writer, and I can instantly tell Bradley is into William. Which gets me thinking. “I’ll be back,” The Writer says, taking off to go outside with an acquaintance. “You’re looking good tonight,” William yells into my ear over the blaring music. I smile then slide my hand down his arm. “You too. Be right back.”
I use body language to direct Bradley to follow me, doing my best to not put out any other signals to either of them then head outside to the smoking alley. “What are we doing out here?” Bradley asks. “That guy is hot.” “Yeah, well, I need a cigarette,” I say. Bradley makes himself useful and disappears to find one. I’m not sure if he just grabbed one from someone he knew or used his boyish charms to seduce one out of someone’s pack, but he’s back in twenty seconds. It the kind I like, so I flirtily ask for a light from a cute boy nearby. “Do you see The Writer anywhere?” I ask Bradley, my eyes darting around in search. “No,” he says. I pull out my phone: “Hey, where are you? I think we’re leaving soon,” I text to The Writer. No response. I put out the cigarette and head to the bathroom.
After a long piss, I come out and Bradley want to leave. “Really?” I ask. “But that guys is really hot, and I think he might be into you. I don’t know I guess we can go.” “I don’t care,” Bradley says. “I kind of want to have a foursome,” I say suddenly. “Do you want to have a foursome? Let’s have a foursome,” I continue, leading Bradley back toward where we left William. “Sure,” he says indifferently. Did I mention that I’m drunk? Walking over, I text The Writer and use Bradley as both bait and an excuse. “Trick Bradley thinks William is really hot and wants to have a foursome.” Still no response. “Hey,” William says again, grabbing my waist. “Hey,” I say with a certain amount of seduction. I have to be careful here because a) I’m drunk b) I’m don’t want Bradley to think I’m trying to steal his action and c) I’m trying to orchestrate a foursome. These things are delicate…just kidding. They’re rough and wild.
“You smell like smoke,” he says. “Cigarettes are disgusting.” “Then it’s a good thing that I’m not a smoker,” I say with a smile. Bradley stands a few feet away but can’t hear anything that’s being said. “You have a hot little body,” he says moving his hand back onto my ass. This is familiar territory. “My friend Bradley…” “I want you,” he blurts out. Finally! I’m making some headway. “My friend Bradley,” I continue, “suggested we have a four-way.” Yes, I’m a fibber. It was me who suggested this. “I’m not a slut!” William says with certain amount of disdain. “Neither am I,” I say adamantly. “I’ve only had sex with like two people this whole year. Besides, it’s not like it’s with a bunch of strangers; just me, you, Bradley, and The Writer…”
“You’re in “L” with him…” he mocks. “With who?” I play dumb. “The Writer. You’re totally in ‘L’ with him,” he continues. “No, I’m not.” I say. He continues to taunt me for a moment before I cut him off. “Then why am I trying to get with you?” I ask. “You want to sleep with both of us since he’s a bottom.” True. This is like some weird sexual harassment therapy shit going on. Then Bradley looks at me like “what’s the hold up?” “Okay, then why did you buy me a drink at the bar earlier?” I press on. “It’s not gonna happen,” he tells me. “Why not?” I ask pretending to be more disappointed than I am. “And why are you flirting with me?” “It would be weird to be with you when he’s there…” “Whatever, then it’ll just be the three of us,” I say looking at Bradley. Besides, The Writer is ignoring my texts anyway. William doesn’t look keen on this idea. “No. I can’t fuck you, you’re The Writer’s friend.” “I know that’s not true. He told me he gave you permission…” “That’s not exactly what happened,” he says with definite punctuation. My eyes slit with a mix of rage, curiosity, and sex. I open my mouth to interrogate this last statement, but his next words get out before mine, “…and he kind of ‘Ls’ you too.”
This leaves me with no choice but to forfeit the discussion. Which in turn proves me guilty–as if my face weren’t enough of a confession. I give William my address and tell him to come over if he wants, but I know he won’t. “What happened?” Bradley asks we move toward the exit, just feet from the doors. That’s when I hear Turtle’s voice: “Hey, Bradley, I need to talk to you.” Through his slurs, I can tell Turtle’s tone is an inauthentic welcome like some abusive husband would use just before he unexpectedly beats on his wife. Both Bradley and I stop, and Turtle goes out of his way to put his chubby frame between us. Lucky me, I get the backside. Yack. “Let me ask you a question,” his voice suddenly turning to condescending and accusatory. “Why’d you text every guy in this club except for me? You think you could tell everyone you were coming, and I wouldn’t find out, you little slut?” And that’s enough. I move around to Turtle’s side (he’s wide enough that it takes a few steps) and say this: “You need to calm down.” “This is none of your fucking business,” he spits out before tilting on his axis to once more block me. “I don’t really know what you’re talking about,” Bradley says in an amusing monotone. “You texted The Writer and told…” I cut him off jumping back into sight, “Actually, I used Bradley’s phone to text The Writer, so you don’t really know what you’re…” But he cuts me off right back. This time with a shove. “Stay out of this!” He turtle-roars. Being a bald, fat alcoholic in your mid-40s and humorously letting your insecurities rule your behavior like a fourteen year old girl is one thing, but telling me what to do and then becoming physically hostile is another. I could point all of this out to him, but it’s pointing out the obvious. No, I’m thinking more big-picture retaliation. I’m done here.
I grab Bradley’s arm and pull him away so fast that it takes a few second for Turtle to stop spitting and compute that Bradley isn’t standing in front of him any more. “You’re ass is grass,” I tell Turtle as I pull Bradley out the door. “I’m going to tell everyone that you’re little sluts!” He shrieks after us. “Good luck with that, asshole,” I say as the door shuts in his face.
“You can’t let people treat you like that,” I tell Bradley. “I know,” he says. “I was just in shock. I didn’t even know what was happening.” “That’s what happens when Swamp Thing throws violent jealous tantrums in front of you.” “I can’t believe he pushed you,” Bradley says as my fingers sweep across my phone screen. “Who are you texting?” He asks. “Everyone. Every gay I’ve ever met that knows him, I’m going to tell them what he did, what an asshole he is. And my cousin. He’s going to end him.” Clark responds almost immediately. “Are you okay?” I confirm that I am, and he tells me he’ll “deal with Turtle” in the morning.
In the meantime, I get agreeable responses from pretty much everyone telling me to inform the promoter I spoke with or tell Clark. All except Wolf (who is friends with Turtle) and Warren. “Come sleep over,” Warren says. I ignore the creepy request. “What happened?” Wolf asks. “Not important,” I answer. I’ve said all I need to on the matter, and it’s going to be “dealt with” accordingly. Bradley drops me off at home, and I tell him I’ll talk to him tomorrow. I get one more text from Wolf. “Come home with me tonight?” Such a thoughtful man.
* * *
The next morning, I go to work late (this is allowed on Fridays), and I get a call from Clark. “What exactly happened? I just want to know the details before I handle this.” I explain the matter, and can’t help but discuss how I’ve never seen a grown man act like that before. “Welcome to Hollywood,” he says, “or more specifically WeHo.” Clark promises to call right back after “handling it.”
And he does. “Turtle apologized and said he was just really drunk and that he’ll apologize to you the next time he sees you. So you’re good?” “Sure,” I say a little complacent. “And what about Bradley?” I ask. “He said he’d apologize to him too. But whatever’s going on between him and Bradley, it’s probably a good idea for you to stay out of it.” This is good advice, but I’m a little taken aback that I wouldn’t get his full support for standing up for my friend when he’s so clearly being bullied if not harassed by this crazy predator. I think about if for a second and realize that my retelling didn’t give full gravity to how Bradley was the victim here. I think about explaining but decide the details are petty. Besides, Clark’s spent enough of his day dealing with this shit, and he barely knows who Bradley is.
“I told him he doesn’t lay a finger on you again. If he does, he’s gonna get cut off. Blacklisted. Whether it’s from Noah’s house or wherever. I know the promoters. They don’t put up with that shit. Turtle knows it.” And with that, I’m satisfied.
* * *
Later that afternoon, I realize The Writer still hasn’t responded to any of my texts from last night. I’m less embarrassed about what I said than worried that I haven’t heard from him. I bury myself in work, which is unusual for a Friday because there’s usually not much to do around the office. But next week is going to be crazy and there’s a lot to prepare for. I’m also putting my best foot forward because I’ve put in my notice and next week will be my last, so I want to leave on excellent terms.
It’s nearly six o’clock–by far the latest I’ve ever stayed on a Friday–when I get a text from The Writer. “What are you doing?” I give it fifteen minutes before I answer for whatever reason then reply, “about to leave work.” Truthfully, I probably won’t be leaving work for another hour, but I’m fishing. “What are you doing?” I continue. “About to nap,” he answers. “You should come over.” Fifteen minutes later, I finish up what I’m doing and walk over to my boss’s desk. “Need anything else?” I ask politely. “Can you drive this over to Beverly Hills?” She asks feeling bad with how late it is. The thing is, I could. But I’m having a party at nine, and I’ll have almost no time to get back, clean, or go to the grocery. And I want to go to the Writers. So… “I totally would, but I’m hosting a dinner party at seven, so if there’s any way…” “A dinner party? That’s so much fun! No, I’ll get one of the interns to deliver it. You’ve been such a big help today. Besides, aren’t you done here next week? Why are you working so hard? Go on home—it’s the weekend!” I thank her and text The Writer that I’m on my way.
He left the front door open for me, so I go in and quietly take my shoes off. I climb into his bed where he’s resting peacefully and pull him into my big spoon. He grabs my hand and presses it hard against his chest. I press my nose into his back and shut my eyes.
Thirty minutes later, we’re up. “Let’s eat,” he says. “What do you want?” I request pizza, and he decides on the place. “Should I drive?” He asks, but for some reason I insist on driving. When we park at the restaurant, I notice my brake lights aren’t turning off despite the car being off. “Why’s it doing that?” I ask. “I don’t know, but you should get that fixed.” A wave of panic washes over me. I’m a New Yorker. I don’t do cars. But I put it from my mind.
After ordering, we get to chatting. “Last night was weird,” I say. Then he picks up his phone. “I didn’t see your sexts until this afternoon,” he says. I’m fairly certain what I composed weren’t explicit enough to constitute being labeled sexts, but I nod. “Tequila night. I was fucked up.” “Yeah, you were.”
And after that we have a beautiful dinner. I can feel how much he cares about me. I don’t want to ask him about what William said about the permission or the L word, or anything else that might detract from our happiness.
I recount the Turtle melodrama, and The Writer is hysterical over Clark’s reaction. “You’re big Italian cousin from Jersey said he’d ‘take care’ of him?” “That’s as gay mafia as you can get.” “It should be a t-shirt with his face on it!” The Writer thinks it’s clever enough to text Clark and ask him for licensing consent. He’s kidding. I hope.
When the check comes, I invite The Writer to my party. The way things were going this week, I didn’t mention it and I just wanted to have a good time. “Who’s gong to be there?” He asks. Not the answer I want to hear. “Mostly co-workers, but Cash and Trick Bradley too.” “I don’t know I have to get up early tomorrow. I’m going to Palm Springs for my friend’s birthday.” “Oh. You should just come for a little while.”
We walk to my car, and I’m ignorantly relieved to see that my brake lights have finally shut off. Until I try to start the ignition. “My battery’s dead,” I say more upset than a person should be. Our delightful afternoon sours as the sun goes down. I call AAA, who take an hour and a half to fix my car. Neurotic as can be, I could really use some comfort, but The Writer’s lost in his iPhone, so I decide to rally…in my own way. I contact everyone I can to tell them I’ll be more than an hour late for my own party. Some of them say it’ll be too late or that they can’t make it anymore; more to worry about. I get back in the car while the AAA guy finishes up, worrying about how I’m going to pay for a new battery. I look at The Writer. And just watch. He’s annoyed that he has to just sit in my dirty car during all of this, and I would be too, but he makes me calm without trying.
After paying the mechanic, I peel out of the parking lot. “Just come,” I plead. “You can spend the night, or I’ll drive you home after.” “I’m exhausted,” he complains. “We just took a nap,” I remind him as I change into a turn only lane that will take me in the direction of my house. “No. Seriously just take me back,” so I get over and take him home. “I’ll take a quick nap and come over in an hour,” he says. “You better,” I say, knowing he won’t. And he doesn’t. Doesn’t even call.