“Things were getting worse faster than we could lower our standards.” –Carrie Fisher
It’s Pride weekend in WeHo and just a few days until my birthday. To help me celebrate, my two best girlfriends from high school come to visit for the weekend, which is extremely beneficial toward my sanity, whose status is currently “in flux.”
After showing the girls around town for a bit, we head back to the hotel where they’re staying and choose a place for dinner. “I think I’m going to invite The Writer,” I announce. The slight hesitation before their response indicates to me that they think this is a less than stellar idea. But I’m already aware of that, and I’m pretty sure they’re a little intrigued. A few minutes and a text conversation later, The Writer agrees to meet us.
The girls and I arrive at the restaurant a few minutes early, and to be honest, I’m a little nervous. Partially because this whole thing is super fucked up. But also, I want my friends to like him. In some weird way, he’s like a badge of honor.
By the time we’re seated, The Writer still hasn’t shown. I get a text from Trick Bradley: “I’m wasted in WeHo.” “Good job!” I respond. That is what you’re supposed to do during Pride, after all.
The Writer is now fifteen minutes late, and I’m a little irked. Finally, he bustles in with his dumb grin, and slightly mismatched outfit. I know this look; it’s the haven’t-done-laundry-in-a-month. He spouts out about 50 words in ten seconds—a mixture of an apology for being late, annoyance about the status of LA traffic/parking, and what a lovely restaurant this is. His grievances melt into an introduction to my friends. I’m interested to see how this goes.
As the conversation starts, The Writer is surprisingly normal. I find myself at a loss or words, but that is how a good observer is supposed to behave, right? I get another text from Bradley: “I’m with David. We’re getting back together.” David is Bradley’s ex, who he’s been heartbroken over the past couple of months. Only, I’m confused: “Wasn’t David with his boyfriend as of yesterday?” His response? “We’re in a three-way relationship.” Gay polygamy—now there’s something to write home about!
Focusing my attention back to the matter at hand, I find myself astonished. The Writer is giving insightful advice about the menu items without sounding like a major doucher. After we order, he starts into engaging, knowledgeable discussion about the universities my friends attended. Who is this person? He’s unbelievably charming and an exceptional conversationalist.
You know that imaginary competition that people have when the break up? If one person lets himself go or gets a fugly new lover, you know you’ve won? Well, I seem to have just lost that competition in front of my friends. My goal was to have my friends like him, but I need them to have a glimpse of his crazy. Just for a second. Unfortunately, dinner’s almost over. That’s why when the waitress comes back to offer us dessert, I kick one of my friends and mouth the word “birthday.” “Oh, you know what?” She says to the waitress. “We’re celebrating our friend’s birthday tonight.” The waitress wishes me a good one and walks away.
“Is that why you guys are visiting?” The Writer asks my friends, and they nod. “They’re taking me out for a birthday dinner tomorrow night,” I interject, making sure he know this doesn’t count. I plan to cash in on the real one. My silent streak officially broken, bring up his outfit. “Haven’t done laundry lately, huh?” “Yeah. How did you know?” He asks “I can tell,” I say, instantly regretting it. It wasn’t meant to sound bitchy, but it definitely did. Shrugging it off, he asks, “What are you doing tonight?” “Going to WeHo. Are you doing anything for Pride?” “I’m not sure. Maybe we can meet up later,” he suggests. I’m not sure why, but this sends me stumbling. All I manage is an awkward, “yeah, maybe.”
Outside the restaurant, we say our goodbyes. “It was a pleasure to meet you,” The Writer says before turning to give me a hug. The second I’m sure he’s out of earshot, I turn to my friends. “What did you think ?” I ask. They look at each other for a second before answering. That bad? I think to myself. “He was…really cool,” they say. “You didn’t think he was…a little weird?” Another pause. “No, not really. Hate to break it to you, but he seems like a great guy.” I’m so confused by The Writer’s display of normalcy that I decidedly look crazy. “You can’t even give me one negative?” I plead. “I mean, from our conversation, it just seems like he’s trying to focus on his life right now, and you can’t blame him for that.” It’s official: I’ve lost.
* * *
On our way to West Hollywood, I get a call from Bradley. “Hey, so I’m really confused. Did you just have a threesome? Or what is the deal?” “No. David, Solomon and I are like all boyfriends,” he says with a slight slur. “Of course you are. Are you coming out tonight?” “Maybe. I’m really trying to break them up before I leave though,” he says nonchalantly. “Of course you are.”
As we drive through WeHo, I see that it’s more packed than I’ve ever seen. We park about a mile away and make the trek to the bar with the shortest line. When we get there, I see I missed a text from The Writer: “I’m going out. Where are you? Let’s meet up.” My reaction is mixed, but we make plans.
In the meantime, I show my friends the sights of Gayland, which includes a cameo or two of guys I’ve hooked up with. Finally, I decide I want to go to my favorite Saturday night hang out, so we get in line. I don’t do lines, but it’s the only way to get in anywhere tonight, so I suck it up like a coke slut in a bathroom stall.
I get another text from Bradley: “We called the cops on Solomon. He’s out of the picture. I win.” I want to inquire about the situation, but just then, The Writer shows up. He cracks a joke, and my insecurities about tonight fade. I tell him about Trick Bradley’s situation, and he rolls his eyes and laughs before rubbing my shoulders. I miss this.
Just as I’m starting to relax, my friends announce they want to head back to their hotel. “But it’s Pride! We just got here!” They want to get up early and go to Disneyland in the morning, but I want to stay. A solution is compromised: they will drive my car back to their hotel, and The Writer will drop me off later.
By the end of the night, I feel great. I’ve upgraded from emotional meanderer to more-than-buzzed social guy. I even got The Writer to show me his (heinous) dance moves after he brags about his (completely fictional) enhanced ability to understand rhythm. (Why couldn’t my friends be there for this part?)
When we get in his car, he asks me where the hotel is. “In Beverly Hills,” I answer. “Really?” “Yeah. Why?” “It’s just so far out of the way. I thought it would be on my way home.” I think for a moment and then make a decision. “If it’s easier for you, I can just sleep at your place and have them pick me up in the morning.” I bite my lip. “Let’s do that,” he says.
Back at his house, we march up the front steps, exhausted. I follow him into the bedroom, where he takes off some of his clothes while I collapse into bed. I curl up on the pillow, and he climbs in close to me. We don’t cuddle, but he stares at my face and strokes my hair. We fall asleep, facing each other. My forehead presses against his. I imagine our bodies form the shape of a heart. This will hurt tomorrow. But tonight, I need it.
* * *
The next morning, I leave. He doesn’t stir.