Day 1: Ex
“I don’t have to exist outside this place.” -The xx
I’ve only seen The Writer once this week. I’m jet-setting to New York on the red eye tonight but before I go, we need to talk about this script that we’re allegedly writing together. True to form, he’s forgotten all of the above, so I call him and we decide to have lunch. I meet him at his house, where he’s writing in bed, wearing some silly white underwear. “I have a song I want to play for you before we go to lunch,” he says, pulling on some pants. I nod, sitting with my knees up on his bed. The opening chords are so lovely that I get goosebumps and pull my knees against my chest. “We can give it time, so much time…” the haunting voices chant, and I lie down, slowly turning on my stomach with my head facing the opposite wall. Then this line comes: “I can draw the line on the first date. I’ll let you cross it, let you take every line I’ve got,” and a fat refugee tear slides from my eye. I dry it with the pillow cover, careful to make sure he doesn’t notice. “You okay?” He asks when the song ends. I turn over, nod quietly, and we leave.
When we get back from lunch, I ask him if we can talk about our script ideas. “Let’s nap first,” he says kicking off his shoes. I climb in bed next to him and run my fingers through his hair. It feels right. “Hey, can you do me a favor?” He asks. “Sure,” I say softly. “I have this spasm in my back, would you mind massaging it? Pleeeeease.” I agree, and The Writer flips over so that I can straddle him. I go to work, knuckling about his lower spine. “Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh,” he groans exaggeratedly. “Down,” he directs me. “Down is your crack,” I inform him, but he shimmies his pants down, grabs my hand, and jams my finger into the meat of his left buttock. “Ow!” He complains. “You’re the one who did it,” I say guilt-free. “No, that’s where the spasm is. You have to jam into the knot. Hurt me.” So I do and continue to do so for another ten minutes. “My fingers hurt,” I tell him, climbing off. “K,” he responds, removed and drooling into his pillow. I wrap my hand around his side, pulling us together, and we lie together for a while until… “It’s so freaking bright in this room,” he says because it would actually kill him to not have something to complain about for more than ten minutes. Even if he’s supposed to be unconscious. “Come on,” he says getting up, and I follow him into his roommate’s room. Since his roommate travels internationally five days a week and usually spends weekends at his boyfriend’s, he’s almost never here; I live here more than he does. Perhaps this is what makes The Writer completely comfortable with climbing pants-less into his roommate’s bed with a boy. “My bed sucks. Do you think he’d switch rooms with me?” “Why would you want to do that? Your room is twice the size of his. Besides, there’s not enough space for your mountain range of crap.” He smacks my arm. “We’d leave all of the stuff where it is except like clothes…” “…and then after three seconds you’d find something that drives you crazy about this room.” “It would just be a trial for a few weeks. There’s so much less light that gets in here. I love that.” “You’re insane,” I tell him as his phone rings. He mutes it, letting it go to voicemail and tosses it next to us. Only it begins ringing again. I catch a glimpse of the screen–it’s his ex.
The Writer is clearly aggravated. “Hey,” he says failing in his attempt to cover up the irritation in his voice. I’ve been in this situation one too many times, but I do my best to politely pretend it doesn’t bother me or more accurately that I don’t find it incredibly rude. A few minutes later, I hear “I love you” come out of the receiver. “You too,” The Writer says almost begrudgingly.
“Sorry, it was Dalton,” he says. “I swear to god, he’s the most inconsiderate fucking person in the entire world. No, you know what? He doesn’t even live on this world.” “What happened?” I ask, although most of me doesn’t even want to hear about it. “So he moved in with this New York gay club owner, and he’s been living the hallway of this guy’s apartment. So this man invites boys over to fuck all night and day that he meets online, and they’ll just come in and think Dalton is the guy ’cause I guess they don’t even know what the guy looks like. Whatever. But now he’s moving out.” “That sounds awful,” I say putting all my feelings aside. “Is he still moving back to LA or staying in New York?” “He’s coming back to California supposedly. But right now he’s trying to find a friend to stay with,” The Writer answers. “How did he even get caught up in all of that?” I ask sincerely. “So after his whole modeling thing didn’t happen, my friend helped him get this job as a waiter at a nice restaurant where he was making good money. But he found out he could just get unemployment even though it was only half of what he was making, so he quit. Only, he can’t make rent.” “Why did he quit?” I ask, confused. “He did this same thing when he lived with me. When he was 19, I got him a job at my friend’s restaurant and three months later I came home when he was supposed to be at work. He told me that he was young, that he shouldn’t have to work, that he should just be enjoying life.” “Are you serious?” I ask. I’ve pretty consistently maintained two jobs at a time since I was 16 on top of a full time school load, so when people get into this kind of idiocy, it pisses me off. “The problem is,” The Writer continues, “he hasn’t been in New York long enough to qualify for unemployment, so he had to go through California and get all of this proof that he moved to New York in search of work that he couldn’t find here. Anyway, now his checks are being sent to my house because it’s his last permanent address, and he doesn’t know where he’s living, and I have to deposit them for him.”
“He sounds…” “He’s a mess,” The Writer says. “But I feel bad for him. He’s never had real parents.” “Oh,” I say. “Yeah, like his mom didn’t know who his father was, but she was dating this guy, and she left them when Dalton was two. How fucked up is that? Leaving your two year old son. But this guy raised him for a few years and I guess was good to him, was like his dad. I don’t know, then he lived with his grandmother…” “And then he lived with you,” I think to myself. Even though he’s not quite a decade older, it’s always seemed to me that The Writer was kind of like a parent to his ex. More that he took care of him, than cared for him. I wonder if that’s how he feels toward me. But the comparisons definitely aren’t equal. They had something more tangible. Dalton is exactly a week older than me, which makes the difference in our journeys that much more contrasted. Although I haven’t met him, in many ways, I feel older than him. Much older. He hasn’t even started college yet. But then again, he was basically on his own at eighteen. Or two, depending on how you look at it.
“When he was twenty, he had a lot of freetime…because he wasn’t working. So he was on this whole kick to find his mom, and I was like ‘why do you want to find the woman who abandoned you?’ I hate her.” I don’t know if he really doesn’t understand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was legitimately didn’t. “Have you met her?” I ask. “Yeah. He finally found her, and she has this new family–a husband and two kids. I guess I should kind of feel bad for her too. Like when Dalton went over one time, she made ‘spaghetti’ by which I mean she microwaved Ez-mac noodles and poured ketchup on them.” “How very Reagan.”
“But one time, she came to visit him here, and we went out to dinner. The check came and she just looked at me. Like she was waiting for me to take my wallet out. No intention of paying. So I sat there. We sat there for about twenty minutes before I finally just paid. How fucked up is that? You go to dinner with the son you abandoned, your 20 year old son. And you expect his 25 year old boyfriend to pay?” Wait! Those ages in no way add up. Yes, sadly, an age discrepancy is the only thing I’m taking away from this story. “I’m sorry, how old were you?” I laugh. “Fine, maybe I was like 26,” he mumbles. “Uh huh. Maybe something like that,” I say rolling my eyes.
“I think you’d get along. Like each other. You and Dalton.” “Yeah? Why’s that?” I ask. “You’re both really smart, funny, sensitive.” “Yeah, I have a feeling he wouldn’t really like me too much,” I say in kind of a high, questiony voice.
When The Writer got back from Coachella, there was a Facebook interaction on his wall that went like this:
The Writer: Coachella was so awesome!
Bradley: jealous. i wanted to go.
For those of you who don’t speak bitch, that last part translates to “Who is this little fucker, why is he talking to you, and why are you even Facebook friends with him?” Yes, I’m sure Dalton would just adore me.
“I need a vacation,” The Writer groans. “Then you should go,” I tell him. “My mom wants to go to Europe with me, but that’s not a vacation. That’s cruel and unusual. Being alone with her for more than a few hours would just be…ugh.” “What if your brother went with you?” “That’d be worse.” “Your dad?” I suggest. “Pure torture. The more of them, the greater the torture.” “So who would you go with?” “I don’t know.” He opens his laptop to start looking at destinations. “I want to go to Costa Rica. You should come,” he suggests. “Trust me, I would if I had the money.” “It’s only a few hundred dollars,” he says, which is nice except I’m about two weeks from being broke. “How about we work on this script, sell it, make some money, then we’ll talk.” So we do.
The Writer likes my ideas but likes his better, which is honestly fine by me. I take some notes, and he assigns me to write a mini outline. I tell him I’ll work on it in New York, and he emails me another of his scripts to read–this one a TV pilot. “When am I going to read something you’ve written?” He asks. “Soon,” I promise.
I go home and pack, then head to the airport–Bradley drives me this time. By 11:30 PM, I’m in the air.
Day 2: Empire State Fuckery
“Sometimes I feel like being gay is a full-time job. Do straight people ever feel straight? There are moments when I feel extra gay…and I’m not even sure what that means.” –Ryan O’Connell
I don’t actually land in New York until 7 AM. I love everything about being home. I love that New Yorkers get off the plane in half the time it takes normal people. I love that they’re not afraid to shove past the obliviously slow. I love the air, it’s infectious ambiance. New York has a morose, quiet dawn. It’s a tiny sliver in time just as the night’s party dust has settled, as though the city is taking a deep inhale before it’s rhythmic launch into a new day.
Yes, I’m cracked out against the calm, having only slept three hours. Luckily, that’s my default New York state of mind. There’s no way I’m taking the subway into Manhattan–I’ve been away too goddam long, and I want to watch her as I come in across the bridge. This is the longest I’ve been away since I was seventeen. When I moved to L.A. I was fine with my decision to leave New York, but I was missing something. It was as though I’d lost my second heartbeat. But sometimes we must leave behind what we know and love in order to grow. All we can do is try our best and hope the future will be worth what we give up.
I hail a cab and when the driver asks me where I’m going, all I can say is “home.” When I finally arrive at my friend’s apartment, I fork over the fifty dollar fair. That’s when Ann comes running at me, screaming. She’s still in her pajamas and yesterday’s make up, so you know this is a special occasion. She never leaves her apartment unless she’s all done up. Period. I drop my bags and run at her too, then she jumps and I hug-catch her, her magnificent boobs cushioning the collision. “I missed you!” She shrieks. “I missed you too! And New York. God, did I miss New York.” I’m almost in tears. I can’t believe I ever left.
We walk to our old little hangover diner where I order half the menu and stuff my face while we catch up. Ann was my best friend in college. We were next door neighbors freshman year, and I essentially moved into her apartment sophomore year. Then, we studied abroad in Italy together for a semester. We were also out-of-our-fucking-minds insane for about 80% of that time. A nice euphemism we use to describe our sophomore year of college is “excessive.” During that time, I shirked as much responsibility as I could manage while still keeping up appearances, and we’d stay up doing drugs, drinking, dancing–everything under the sun–until the sun literally came up. Or as normal people call it, chipping away at our insanity. Ann’s crazy ex boyfriend and I even exchanged blowjobs one time, but she doesn’t like to talk about that. Not that it’s even close to our craziest stories, (mostly because both parties were sober at the time). But when we were being more “excessive,” we were known to have multi-partner bisexual relations, black-out crying sessions in the bathroom, wild dancing sessions, break-out Broadway performances in inappropriate locales, find needlessly creative new ways to abuse substances, old-fashioned binge drink, and even had an interesting celebrity extension or two. Those were the days.
I finish my multi-course breakfast food, and we walk back to Ann’s apartment. These days, she’s a bartender at a nice Italian restaurant and has to go to work, so I take a nap. When I get up, I walk around the city just taking it in. The lights, the energy, the people, the crazy. Again: how did I ever leave?
Later on, I meet Ann at her restaurant and order myself my second grand meal of the day, along with a fancy drink that she shakes up and garnishes. “Thanks, sugar,” I say with a giggle and slide a couple dollar bills in her cleavage. At close, we head to another area of the restaurant where I meet the rest of her co-workers, and we throw back a couple of drinks. Someone offers me a cigarette. I don’t really want it, but I can hardly pass up the opportunity to smoke inside a restaurant in post-Giuliani New York…so I indulge. Ann introduces me to her gay co-worker, and we head across the street to a trendy bar where they buy some drugs from a cute bartender. We probably drink close to $100 worth between the three of us, but Cute Bartender (cuter by the drink, I might add), only charges thirty. To show their gratitude, they tip $30–apparently this is a regular thing. Ann’s co-worker Tim tries to get me to go to the bathroom with him and get high, but like I said, those were the days. I pass. Tim gets a little pissy, and when he leaves for the bathroom, Ann asks if I’m interested in him. “No, not really,” I tell her. Once upon a time, I would’ve probably gone along with it or at least teased the idea. But his insecurities are showing, and they’re rather unflattering. And although I officially ended my vow of celibacy upon touch down on the JFK runway, I’m still kind of messed up about The Writer.
After they do some more drugs, we head downtown to Greenhouse a super fun and kind of fascinating club that would never exist in L.A. It’s kind of a mixed crowd–something L.A. could seriously use. The thing is…well here’s a little New York vs. L.A. (or rather WeHo–see it’s all pretty much said right there):
New York is a beautiful, contained tapestry, constantly evolving and incorporating and weaving threads from all walks of life: different cultures, religions, national origins, classes. But some of the most amazing threads are gay threads. The point is, all of the threads woven together make up one tightly-knitted tapestry that is New York. Or at least Manhattan. Manhattan has several gay neighborhoods–West Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen–and several gay parts of neighborhoods–East Village, Greenwich Village, SoHo, etc. Even the outer boroughs have some decent gay love in the likes of Astoria and Williamsburg, among others. The point is, gays and gay culture are so seamlessly and intricately woven into the city that frankly, New York would be a poorer place without us.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, has basically one gay neighborhood in the form of West Hollywood. Most people who come to L.A. have one thing in common: they want to make it big. And they want to make it big in the entertainment industry. Entertainment is, so they say, a cutthroat business. So when you multiply a relatively small community (the gays) by a severely entertainment-focused, celebrity-obsessed town (L.A.) you get a whole lot of drama. Especially all packed into the gay bars on Santa Monica Boulevard. With everyone on the same track, the urban sprawl that is the L.A. area feels quite tiny. Tinier than the 23 square miles that make up Manhattan.
So while LAGs and gay New Yorkers certainly share a lot in common, they are ultimately fiercely different creatures. At least in their function. That being said, co-worker Tim continues to be pissy. Despite being a New Yorker, I’m kind over him. We head uptown to a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen where Tim seems to know everyone on the street. Maybe my cities aren’t so different after all.
The bar is nothing too special, but it’s unlike anything WeHo has to offer. The crowd is made up of men. Really attractive, have it together, well-built-but-not-too-built men. A far cry for the slutty twinks and predatorial old men of WeHo. Not that New York doesn’t have its fair share of bars just like that. But New York has a general pride in itself while L.A. has a lingering stench of desperation. Sure, New York might play its dirty cynicism, but WeHo is a slot machine. You stick your “coin” in, pull the “lever,” and see if you’ve hit the “jackpot.” No one has any swagger or charisma because there’s not even a game to be played in WeHo. And a hefty portion of the LAGs who hit up WeHo have one thing on their mind: I’m D.T.F. Which is fine, except when it’s block and blocks of people only thinking “I’m D.T.F.,” it’s kind of gross.
Back in Hells Kitchen, I’m kind of intimidated. It might be my failure to adapt to the new surroundings or how disarmingly attractive these New Yorkers are or even that I’m just super tired. Whatever it is, I know I’m ready to go home. “Seriously? Why?” Tim asks. “The time change…it’s a three hour difference on the west coast.” What I don’t mention is that it’s three hours earlier on the west coast, so really I should be fine. But he’s both too self-involved and too fucked up to put that together. With a huff, he hails two cabs (good luck trying that in WeHo), and we head our separate ways.
When we get back to her apartment, Ann starts apologizing profusely for being trashed. “Seriously? You’re fine,” I assure her. Besides, I’m legitimately exhausted so we’re nearing identical states anyway. Lying down next to each other in her fluffy white bed like old times, I ask her: “Ann, how do you know when you’re in love?” Looking kind of droopy she responds, “I don’t know. You don’t and then you just do.”
Day 3: Let’s Get One Thing Straight
“The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision.” -Lynn Lavner
The next night, Ann has to work again. Before I head over to her restaurant to meet her, I do something naughty. I go through the contacts in my phone and decide to text a boy I once hooked up with during my legendary sophomore year. A straight boy.
That infamous night, I was rolling. So was he. And his girlfriend. And Ann and her boyfriend. It was my first time taking Molly–his too. We met around eleven in Ann’s dorm room, began rolling within the hour, chain smoked out the window, danced as wonderful feelings shot through our bodies. This guy, Frank, went to the bathroom. A minute later he came out and said, “Hey!” We all slowly looked at him, and he was standing there, butt ass naked, with a huge grin and an even huger hard on. Within seconds, Frank and his girlfriend were on Ann’s twin sized dorm bed. As he was going down on her, I joined in by going down on him. I’m proud to say that it was the best head I’ve ever given–and his response was one of pleasure.
What no one told me until months later was this: Frank thought I was Ann. The lights were all off, and Frank’s face was otherwise occupied in his lady’s…situation. But when he started to swell, he looked down, gasping but was shocked to find a boy licking his lollipop. Presumably for the first time.
Although we each hold that night as a sacred, we knew better than try to recreate it. And things got busy. Ann and I went to Italy, Frank and his girlfriend (who Ann and I are great friends with) had a rocky break up. We grew up and apart. But tonight’s a special occasion, so I try to get everyone to meet us at the bar. She can’t. He can.
Frank arrives shortly after I do, and Tim (presumably filled in by Ann) becomes instantly and explicitly flirty with Frank. We head back to the same bar as last night where Tim tries to convince Ann to go splitsies with him on some drugs. I roll my eyes at her, and she takes the hint. Instead, she goes with him to smoke a cigarette, leaving Frank and I alone. “The whole gay thing doesn’t bother me,” he says suddenly with a grin. “I know,” I say back confidently. “You’re the only guy I’ve ever been with like that,” he says. “It was fun.” The smokers returnand we rack up another ridiculous tab, and we’re once again only charged $30. I could get used to this. It’s still early, but Tim is drunker than last night. We all are.
“What would you look for in a man?” Tim asks Frank, trying his best to seem engaging. “If I were to fuck a guy, I’d want him to be really good looking. Sexy.” Frank looks at me. “Or like someone I know and trust, who’s cool and funny like this guy,” he says putting his hand on my shoulder. I blush a little. But not really. “But you would have sex with a man?” Tim interrogates. “Yeah, probably. Why not? Everyone has some kind of curiosity in their sexuality. Wouldn’t you have sex with a woman?” Frank asks Tim. “Gross! No way. That would be like abandoning who I am. And women, sexually, are just disgusting.” Frank is getting annoyed by the double standard and turns his concentration toward me. “Want to get out of here?” He asks. “Are you coming home with us?” I ask seductively. “Sure. Well, as long as that guy’s not coming.” “Not a problem,” I tell him as we walk outside, and I grab a cab. Frank, Ann, and I squeeze in the back seat, Frank in the middle.
Back at her apartment, Ann asks to speak to me. “I have my period, so I don’t want to have sex with him,” she says. I take this as an invitation. Rejoining, Frank we all strip down, but Ann keeps her panties on. “I’m not really up for it tonight,” she tells a disappointed Frank. “You two have some fun.” Frank and I kiss for a minute before he pushes away, smiling. “You’re such a hot kisser,” he says. We lock lips again then he moves on to Ann. I take the opportunity to relocate downtown, straddling Frank and going in for the first real action I’ve gotten in weeks. It’s nowhere near as good as last time, which we all knew would happen but who passes up free head, right? Meanwhile, Frank is re-familiarizing himself with Ann’s wonderful tits. He’s practically begging to fuck her, but she won’t. Instead, she offers her oral services, so we switch out. It drives him wild. Not only is better than me, she should probably be teaching classes on fellatio. It’s like her destiny. Also, I’m unsure what happened but at some point about a year and a half ago, almost over night, I decided I didn’t liked giving blowjobs.
Maybe it’s alcohol hitting with a delayed reaction or the fact that it’s nearly 4:30 in the morning, but I’m getting delirious. When Ann comes up for air, I ask her if she has any lube, not realizing how presumptuous it sounds. It freaks Frank out a little. Not that I notice. Ann hands me the bottle, which I squirt in my hand and messily rub on my body then his. Frank does his best to scoop the lube off of him and put it back on me. “Maybe we should just go to bed,” one of them suggests. It’s probably for the best. We curl up spooning together, Frank once again in the middle. Straight boys…oy!
Day 4: The Only Living Boy In New York
“The victor belongs to the spoils.” -The Beautiful and the Damned
I get a call from my mother at 8:30. “We’re early. Where are you?” “In bed. I’ll be there in thirty.” I hang up and fall out of Ann’s bed. She’s still sleeping, but Frank must have snuck out in the middle of the night. I’m not sure how–he was sandwiched between us. Apparently he’s a ninja.
I have only the energy to brush my teeth and throw on some wrinkled dressy clothes. Luckily, under-hygienic tends to be a good look for me.
When I get to our meeting spot, I see my parents and grandma standing outside. “Honey, you look hung-OVER,” Grandma says. Coming from her, I take it as a compliment.
Day 5: Fever Dreams
“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” -Martin Luther King
The next day, even after the hangover and sleep deprivation pass, I still don’t feel well. There’s a tingle in my throat, and I pass out in my aunt’s car after we eat lunch at a nice Italian restaurant in midtown. She takes me back to her house outside the city with my mom.
I miss The Writer, so I read his TV script. It’s quirky and has a great premise, but it’s not meant for television. I don’t know how, but even before I read any of his television writing, I know The Writer isn’t right for the medium. Not invested. It’s a more organized structure. The stories require foresight and the characters vast commitment. He doesn’t want those things, so how is he supposed to create them?
Feeling warm, I fall asleep on the couch. I dream of The Writer and I driving into the desert. All I can see for miles are Joshua Trees. I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating.
Day 6: Thunder Only Happens When It’s Raining
“Players only love you when they’re playing.” -Fleetwood Mac
The next morning, I feel worse. My glands are the size of water balloons, accompanied by a chesty cough. I sleep most of the day away, but I wake up in the afternoon and get to writing…I’ve barely done any since arriving in New York. Then, I text The Writer and ask him to call me.
A few minutes later he does. “How’s New York?” “It’s wonderful,” I tell him. “Wish I was there,” he says. “Me too.” “You don’t sounds so good,” he notices. “That’s ’cause I’m sick.” “I’m dealing with my own ailment.” “Oh yeah?” I laugh. “What is it this time? Your imaginary tumor?” “No,” he says, “it’s my back. It’s really fucked up. I’ve just been working in bed all week. I’m getting an epidural next week.” “Oh! That sounds serious,” I say. “Well, if you’re feeling better, you should pick me up. I get back in two days, you know.” “If I can make it that long sitting up, I will,” he promises. And even though I haven’t been gone that long, and even though he’s been bed-ridden since I’ve left, he has so much to say. We talk on the phone for more than an hour–his way of saying I miss you, I guess. Or maybe he’s just bored. I actually have to cut him off because it’s getting painful to talk, and I have relatives to visit with. But I miss him too. By the time I get back, it will have been twice as long as I’ve gone without seeing him since we’ve met.
Day 7: What Could’ve Been
“I loved you as if we were going to die the same day.” –Cheri
It’s my last day in New York, and no matter how fucking sick I may be, I refuse to be sick on my last day in the city. I take a fuckload of medicine in the morning and head to the last neighborhood I lived in: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Arielle, my best friend in the whole world (I do believe we’re soulmates), still lives there–a block from where I was mugged. Her old roommate Quinn and Quinn’s boyfriend are staying with her, and we all head out to my favorite occasion of the week–brunch. After ordering our respective mimosas and Bloody Marys, Quinn’s boyfriend leaves in search of an ATM. “He is cute!” I squeal at her. We take the opportunity to girltalk our guys, concluding that Quinn is lucky, Arielle is too good for men (and should probably just pledge to the Sapphic sisterhood), and I’m batshit crazy.
The boyfriend returns, and our meals arrive. They’re positively delicious, and we order another round of cocktails. Except Arielle, who is making her improv debut this afternoon–she’s in concentrative artiste mode. When the cocktails arrive, I erupt into a horrible coughing fit and down some cough suppressants with my mimosa. “Are you okay?” They inquire. “Yeah, I’m just dying. I think I need to see a doctor.” I go to one of those unreliable walk-in pharmacy clinics and wait an hour to find out I have fluid in my lungs. The “doctor” who assesses this doesn’t think it warrants antibiotics, but I argue the point until she forks over a perscription. Afterward, I rush to Arielle’s improv show and make it to the theater just as the house lights go down. She’s simply the best, shining brighter than the other beginners–a true star.
Later, we go back to Brooklyn to celebrate. It’s me and Arielle, Quinn and her boyfriend, Arielle’s roommate and sister and her sister’s boyfriend Nate. Later on, the other guitarist from Nate’s 60s style doo-wop pop band comes with his girl pal, who is coincidentally Arielle’s new roommate. We drink margaritas and laugh at how shady the restaurant is. It’s like Melrose Place, only in 2011 with artsy Brooklyn kids who are overly snobby about their specialty beers. I look around the table and can’t help but smile. That feeling I keep talking about–how I don’t feel young anymore–this is the remedy. This isn’t a fleeting moment, it’s real youth. We’re funny and flirty and smart and cheeky and artistic and proud and sexy. Why did I leave?
The check comes as I’m flirting with Nate from across the table. We’re playing footsie while he’s sitting right next his grilfriend, but as he splits up the bill, I playfully dig my foot into his crotch, and he jumps then smiles at me.
We head down the street to a bar, and I get kind of sad. We’re right by that guy’s apartment. The one who strung me along. The one who I became obsessed with. I want to call him, but his number isn’t in my phone anymore. “Don’t,” Arielle warns. I promise not too but shortly thereafter borrow Nate’s iPhone and find Brooklyn Boy’s number. “Hey! Are you in Brooklyn?” I text him. Our last communicative interaction was me leaving the umbrella, which he left at my apartment after fucking, on his front door with the movie ticket from our first date stapled to it. I was younger and less in touch with reality then (although not by much), but I still have no business trying to get him to come here now.
Arielle’s sister can’t get into the bar despite persistently trying because she’s underage and has a fake, so we head to another bar. He texts back: “Yeah, son! Who is this?” He’s a weirdo. I tell him it’s me, and yet he’s still insane enough to respond: “Probably can’t meet up–at a friend’s. Sorry. How is LA?” It’s probably better for the both of us that he turns down my invitation. Although last he knew, I was staying in New York and becoming a teacher, so his response gives me the satisfaction of knowing he’s at the very least Facebook stalking me.
So why did I leave? I could’ve been a teacher and lived in the city I love, with this great group of friends, close to my family, close to the people I care about. But then where would I be? Certainly not where I am now. Not with The Writer. Not chasing the dream that I chase so very hard. Besides, this is all a fantasy, an illusion. That boy thinks I’m crazy, and this isn’t really my group of friends. Also, I was mugged on this same street less than a year ago! Although that doesn’t sound too different from my life in L.A. (minus the mugging part). Maybe just a little older. But I’ve learned something from these boys that made leaving New York, my first and truest love, so much simpler: care deeply for the ones you love, but at the end of the day, put yourself first.
Quinn and Arielle talk me down and as one of them is saying something reassuring, I see Brooklyn Boy walk in and take a seat with two friends at a table directly across the patio. “…you’re just crazy, and he’s just dumb!” Arielle says in her most wonderfully authoritative tone. He makes eye contact with me and looks nervous. I smirk. Saying something to the guys, he stands and they walk out. I take a deep breath. “He was just here. He looked right at me and left,” I say. “You’re lying!” Arielle says, looking inside the bar to see if she cans till see him. “Don’t look!” Robin scolds her. It’s over. And it’s been over. I hang out for a few more minutes then call it a night, bidding adieu once more to my dearest friend.
Guess Who’s Back
“You ain’t lost pal. You’re where you are. And you have to make the best of it. It’s all you can do.” -Life On Mars
The next morning, I get on a flight back to New York. As we take off, I watch my beautiful city, the city that so deeply shaped me, home of all of my “what ifs,” fade into the horizon. I press my temple against the window and close my eyes until we land.
I head to The Writer’s as soon as I get home, and he greets me by pulling me into a tight hug. He’s wearing his old man back brace, which I tease him about. We don’t have much time to chat because our favorite show is about to start. It’s a wonderful episode, really pulling everything together, and when the credits roll, the voiceover instructs us to return next season. “That can’t be right,” I say. “Yeah, it was a short season, but I was getting tired of it anyway. It’ll be nice to have a break,” he responds. I’m inappropriately upset by this news, but I do my best to keep it internalized.
“So what did you do without me all week? Not laundry, I see.” His room looks like a tornado victim. “In my defense, I can’t bend over to pick up clothes because of my back.” “Yeah, because you definitely would’ve anyway…” He nudges my arm. “I didn’t do much though. I can’t really drive anywhere because sitting up hurts, so I’ve mostly just been working from bed.” “Aw, poor baby, well if you need help with anything, let me know.” He rolls over. “You could massage my knot.” I agree and begin the rub down. “And Dalton moved back,” he says suddenly.
You know in war movies when a bomb goes off or a gun is shot right next to someone’s ear and it throws off their equilibrium with the ringing. That. Only in fastforward. I take a quick breath, and snap back to reality. My hands aren’t touching his back, but I’m looking at them. They’re shaking. I’m not really sure how I respond. What I do know is I now have a knot in my stomach–one to match the knot in his back.