I’d Like To Tell You All About It
“I really wish I was less of a thinking man and more of a fool not afraid of rejection.” -Billy Joel
The next night, I’m feeling under the weather. I consider skipping Wolf’s party. My throat is soar, my eyes are scratchy, and I have a slight cough. But how could I miss this? What would it say about me? No one would really even notice, but I would know. Besides, all of the ridiculous drama that I imagine will climax tonight will make for a wonderful story to share over drinks with friends. So I ready myself, and get in my car. I’m pumped. I feel a little adrenaline. A little anxiety. Dread is the exact emotion I’m feeling actually. But whatever. Who doesn’t have a precise fear of the unknown? What’s on my mind, you ask. Well, I’ll be meeting Dalton for the first time, which frankly doesn’t sit well with me no matter which way I angle it. He’s predetermined to hate me. I have no idea how I’m supposed to begin to interact with him. We’re sharing what in some way belongs to the other. I’m nervous about seeing Wolf and meeting his other “boys.” It’s immature, but I’m genuinely curious how I compare. I don’t really care about seeing Turtle or Warren, but I am anxious about what they might say to or about me. I know what I’d say to either of them; something along the lines of “oh, hey.” And while I’m considering all of this, one thought lingers above the rest. It’s like a constant static shock somewhere near the top of my spine. What will I say to The Writer? I promised myself to talk to him the next time I see him. Talk about everything. And that time is tonight. I don’t know where to begin. What I have to say is simple. The situation? Not so much.
I start my car. Before I switch gears into reverse, Clark calls. Relieved, I turn off the engine and remove the keys from the ignition. “Hello?” “Hey buddy, what’s up?” I used to hate it when people called me buddy, but Clark has the kind of authority where it doesn’t bother me. “I was just calling to check in with you,” Clark continues. “Oh, I’m just heading to Wolf’s party,” I tell him. “Cool, me too. I’ll see you there then,” he says conclusively. “Great! Can’t wait.” It’s extremely comforting knowing Clark will be there. He always has my back one way or another, and my back is going to be rather exposed this evening. Especially because I’ve decided not to drink, given my not feeling so hot.
I arrive at Wolf’s about an hour after the party kicked off. But the sun is still glimpsing over the horizon…a sign that I’m here too early. I knock on Wolf’s door, and no one answers. I hear people around back though, so I let myself in. My eyes dart around searching for Turtle first. Turtle has the temperament of a scorned overweight junior high cheerleader, and while he doesn’t pose any real threat to me, I’d prefer to steer clear. Number two on my search-and-avoid list is The Writer and/or his ex. I haven’t met Dalton, but I’ve seen pictures, so I know what he looks like. I feel some kind of weird kinship with him. He’s what came before. Deep down, I pray to whatever someone like me would pray to that Dalton flaked out and The Writer would come solo. It would take a lot of stress of the agenda I have for the evening. And it’s not too much of a stretch, especially considering Wolf and Dalton never really seemed tight. And finally, Warren. At this point, I’ve come to believe he’s insane. Like truly unstable. As luck would have it, not a single one of them is present. By the time I make it through the house and onto the back patio, I know I’m in the clear. That’s when I realize…my anxiety about who would be there was misplaced. What I should have been worrying about was who wouldn’t be there. I don’t recognize anyone except Mr. Wolf, and it’s his party.
Wolf and I haven’t really spoken in a couple weeks, and all of a sudden I feel guilty. Other than a couple of simple misunderstandings, he’d always been very genuine and kind toward me. Not to say that I plan to rekindle our fling, but I displaced frustration I had with myself onto him. My shoulders tense up and my breathing becomes shallow. That’s when Wolf notices me. I do have impeccable timing like that. “Hallo, you!” I give him a weak smile and a strong hug. “Happy Birthday,” I muster up with appropriate sincerity. “I see you’re cooking. Your favorite!” I inch closer. “Well, grilling but yes.” He has to correct me. If I wasn’t so uptight at the moment, I’d find it charming. I even go as far as to grin but imagine my expression looks more like a wince. As more people arrive, Wolf greets them, and I stand, watching for a moment unsure what to do with myself. I lean on one leg and pull out my phone, pretending to text someone like I used to do at high school parties where no one wanted to talk to me. I’m literally making myself crazy. My shoulders are so tense, they’re practically touching my ears, and I think of more things, more reasons why I can’t free myself from the man I care for so deeply:
16. He’s the only person I’ve ever liked sleeping next to.
17. He made me fall in love with cuddling.
18. How weak I’ve become to not give that up.
19. How hard he tries to do right by me.
20. How often he fails.
I hear a laugh. That’s when I snap out of it. Clark and Noah are sitting at the table right behind me. My chest heaves a heavy sigh. I slap on a smile, which I hope is big enough to blanket my enormously exposed insecurities. “Hey cuz,” Noah says with a wink. I bend over to give him a hug before embracing Clark. He hops over to sit on the cooler, offering me his seat. “You’re the best,” I tell him. “What have you been up to?” He asks me. I tell him about New York and we talk family matters, which calms my nerves. Then Noah interrupts to introduce a friend. “I don’t think you’ve met The Model,” Noah says. I turn to shake his hand and nearly swallow my Adam’s apple. The Model is gorgeous. Perfect teeth. Perfect hair. Perfect skin. Perfect jaw. Everything. The reason I’m really so faint though is his uncanny resemblance to Jake, the first boy I ever fell for. Same facial hairline, beauty mark on the same spot on his cheek, exact hue of his eyes. Noah elbows me, getting the wrong idea. The Model, just like Jake, is way out of my league. And for those of you tuning in, I’m buried under a mountain of someone else’s emotional rubble. “H-hi,” I sputter. “Nice to meet you,” The Model says, making me feel much more comfortable. The four of us carry on some conversation, and I mostly say things that make me feel stupid. I actually feel kind of drunk despite not drinking anything but water.
When I feel I’ve worn out my welcome with the people I know, I do the rounds…only to discover I know no one else. I recognize a couple of lesser-known actors, who I have a lot of respect for but can’t summon up the courage to introduce myself. Everyone’s mingling, so I lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes. Where is The Writer?
21. He uses wipes instead of toilet paper.
22. He only takes baths.
23. If he was here, I’d probably be just as quiet. But I’d be content just standing beside him.
24. He expects me to wait.
25. But doesn’t care if I don’t.
I think about texting him and asking if he’s still coming. But why bother? I go to look in the mirror, but there isn’t one. So I splash some cold water on my face and sit for moment. Anyway, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m taking a dump, so I vacate the bathroom after just a few short minutes and decide to rejoin the lively party. Only, when I go to open the door, I find that I’m in a bit of a conundrum in that I can’t get out. Is this a hallucination? Am I having a flashback to middle school? I seriously consider it for a second pressing up against the door. To my surprise, it opens and I fall on someone. Luckily, that person is Clark. And luckily, Clark is much larger and coordinated than I. “You okay?” He asks. I nod. The silver lining to this situation is he knows I haven’t been drinking. So instead of thinking I’m a drunk mess, he just thinks I’m clumsy. Good work.
I circle around the crowd once, then head to the kitchen where I fill a red cup with water. “Why isn’t he drinking?” Is the look I get from a crowd of twinks in the kitchen. They look like the plastics from Mean Girls. Cliquey, judgmental, bleached smiles, highlighted hair, tanned skin, even a few wearing carefully blended makeup. Their bodies are generally nothing more than masses with reflective surfaces, not that I need to see my reflection to know how rough I’m looking. I circle around the downstairs one more time and spot Turtle. He couldn’t have been here for more than 2o minutes, and he’s sloshed. Naturally. He sees me out of the corner of his eye and clams up, but I decide not to push my luck and return to the patio.
Clark is otherwise occupied with a tall guy. He looks like he’s in his mid to late twenties, cute and kind of built. Noah and The Model chat with a few other people, so I awkwardly shoulder my way into the circle. I don’t have the focus or enthusiasm to introduce myself to the unknowns, and after a few minutes of radio silence on my end, The Model looks over at me. “What are you drinking?” “Water,” I answer. Could I get any more vanilla? My inner monologue is seriously beginning to frustrate me, so I interrupt it to try and say something even remotely interesting to this guy…Yeah. I got nothing. So I smile politely and try to prevent myself from shaking. It’s getting chilly.
I see the guy Clark was talking to standing alone. I want to go over and say something lame like, “tell me about it” or even just introduce myself, but as I take a step toward him, Clark comes back with two drinks in hand. Wonderful timing as usual on my end. “Hey…” Clark says to me, and I suddenly feel like I’m cock-blocking. “This is Thomas. Thomas, this is my cousin,” Clark says. I shake his hand and get a smile that reads, “you’re not welcome.” I don’t know why, but this is the usual reaction I get from the guys Clark is with. I don’t know if they’re just possessive, I give off a bad vibe in his vicinity, or they don’t believe that we’re really related. We don’t really look anything a like. Then again, there are very few people in my family who I do resemble.
Regardless, I take the hint and head back over to the circle I was just in. It’s just Noah now and a guy named Rupert. He’s British. I suspect for a moment he might be Wolf’s brother, but I learn he’s not. “You’re not the first one to ask me that tonight,” he says to Noah, who asks if they’re related. “No, we just met at the Brits in America Convention,” he says dryly. How very British of him. “So how do you know Wolf?” Noah asks, as my mind wonders…
26. The only liquor he’ll drink is vodka, but he won’t admit it.
27. Unless it’s a margarita.
28. But only if it’s made with crushed jalapeno. And not too sweet.
29. I’m his type except for one thing.
30. He’s growing bored of me.
“It’s a matter of portrayal,” Rupert exclaims bombastically. “In America, you celebrate political victories by parading around boys in body glitter and underwear. How is the rest of the country supposed to take you seriously?” Whoa. Wasn’t really ready for this kind of conversation. I pull it together perk up. “It’s just a matter of time,” Noah says defensively. “Gay marriage has become legal in states every year since 2008. Which is more than the UK can say.” FYI: The United Kingdom has civil partnerships. “Semantics aren’t important. You Americans get so stuck in your words.” “Separate isn’t equal,” I chime in, believing it to be a clear and non-debatable point. But I’m nearly steamrolled by the rest of the argument. “You have a chance now to get what you want: rights. Your whole country could turn the other way in a couple years, and you’ll be left with even less than what you have now. Worry about terminology later.” “Or we can keep fighting this they way we have been,” Noah says taken aback. “How much do you know about…” the guy spouts out a mouthful about something involving strategic legislation, and I tune out. I like to think that I’m well versed in queer politics, and I am…relatively. Just not relative to these guys. Being around the rich and powerful has brought me to realize a couple things: a) some people are disconnected from…well, let’s just say Earth and their feet are not regularly acquainted b) have priorities that are impossible to trace and c) know things that I shouldn’t. They’re not good or bad attributes, it’s just that they’re a part of a culture that hidden to the naked eye. It’s been a little scary a couple of times, and I clearly do not need any additional helpings of distress scooped on my plate tonight.
I look around as I’ve been doing the rest of the night and see Jerry. I’ve never met Jerry, but I recognize him. He has a new show that’s about to premiere, and I’m interested in it, how it might play into my future. There could be a path for me there. I want to introduce myself, but I’m pretty certain he’s friends with Clark, and I’d much rather meet him when I’m not on the verge of tears. “How are you going to position yourself for the next generation of gays?” Rupert asks with an inappropriate amount of accountability. There’s politics and then there is politics. This is the latter. Stakes, secrets, hatred. And that’s between two guys who bat for the same team.
There’s a half-second lull in the conversation, so I seize the opportunity: “I’m going to take off, but it was good to see you.” “Why are you taking off?” Noah asks. “The whole not feeling so hot thing, and I’m just kind of tired.” Clark sees me saying my goodbyes and heads over. “You’re not gonna hit WeHo with us tonight?” He asks. We’ve never gone out to WeHo together, and the expression on Thomas’s face tells me he doesn’t want that trend to start tonight. “Nah, I’m gonna head home,” I say with a big hug. Clark is a squeezer, and his embrace makes me realize how upset I really am. My neck feels like it could snap in half. He doesn’t react, but his upper body would have to be completely devoid of nerve-endings to not notice. “Hey, I’m having some people over tomorrow–you should come,” Noah tells me. “Crap, I forgot to tell you,” Clark says. “Yeah, I’d love to. Text me the details. It was nice to meet you,” I say, waving to Rupert who doesn’t really notice me, and I nearly run out off the patio.
Inside I say bye to Wolf. “Sorry we didn’t get to hang out,” he says. “Oh, it’s fine! I had a good time.” In immediate retrospect, I realize that I’m lying and that my lie was probably still insensitive. But I’m too close to the escape hatch on this nightmare to care anymore. Fuck, I wish I had some xanax.
The second I make it to the sidewalk, I take off in a sprint. I feel ready to vomit, but there’s no food in my stomach. After a block, I stop and shove my head between my legs to stop myself from having a panic attack. Why did I park so far away?
31. He sleeps more than anyone I know.
32. But he’s a total insomniac.
33. He’s impressed by almost everything he does.
34. A part of him hates himself.
35. I still want that part.
Inside my car, I look at myself in the mirror and buckle up. My hand is shaking as I stick the key in the ignition. How did I get like this? Is any person really worth feeling like this? But I remind myself that my current condition, this was self-induced. I did this. Once again, I pray I to who/whatever someone like me should pray to. This time, I ask that I don’t get in a car accident because I’m certain the smallest amount of whiplash would cause my neck to snap in two, and I image how upsetting it would be to have my head fall off and shoot through the windshield. So I drive. My GPS isn’t warmed up yet, and I don’t even know if I’m going in the right direction. I just want to be as far away from here as possible. I focus on the lines in the road.
36. He completely settles me.
37. When he’s not unsettling me.
38. I love writing with him.
39. He never gets it.
40. And when he does, he pretends not to.
My phone vibrates in my pocket, and I jump. It’s The Writer. I clear my throat. “Hello?” “Heeeey,” he says. I’m silent. He’s on speaker and I know without a doubt Dalton is sitting next to him in the passenger seat of his car. I bite on my tongue nervously, and the silence becomes uncomfortable. “Can you text me Wolf’s address?” Is he fucking serious? I collect myself, then say: “Can I just tell it to you?” I ask. “Uh…” “I’m driving,” I tell him. “Sure,” he says, and I hear him fumble something. Then the sound gets distant and I hear him exchange a couple of mildly hostile words with Dalton, probably arguing about the GPS. “Are you still going?” I blurt out. “Yeah.” “Oh. Cuz the party ends in like twenty minutes.” I hear more fumbling. It sounds like Dalton is upset that they went so late. “Oh,” The Writer says. “There were only like fifteen people there when I left.” Really there were more like twenty five, but considering there were well over fifty at some point… “We’re just gonna stop by for a minute. Dalton wants to see everyone.” “Alright.” “Bye,” he says. I drop my phone on the floor.
I make it home and pop a xanax. Or two. It takes about twenty minutes for me to calm down, but I sleep like a brick.