“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.” -The Winter of Our Discontent
I’ve been thrown into the gay end of the pool.
I just arrived at a party that my cousin invited me to in the hills. It’s at a gorgeous house with an even more gorgeous view, packed with gorgeous gay men… or at least ones intimidating enough to pull off hot by proxy. Standing there, watching them chatter and play around the pool, I pull the pink plastic sunglasses off my face, trying my best to feel less out of place.
“There you are,” my cousin Clark says, noticing me standing at the house entrance. “Here I am,” I mutter before deciding how stupid my words sound. “This is Chase,” Clark says, introducing his co-worker to me. “Nice to meet you,” Chase says. “I think we’ve met before,” I say, by which I mean we have definitely met. I’m a little disappointed he doesn’t remember me. I always wonder in these situations if it’s better to just pretend you don’t remember either. As I shake his hand, he looks at me a little sideways before someone else greets him, then he’s gone.
“Can I get you a drink?” Clark asks. I try to work out the mathematical formula in my head to figure out the maximum quantity of liquor I can consume but still be safe to drive by the time I leave: no less than three hours here without an excuse to bounce, factor in the probable alcohol ratio of the mixed drinks, carry the one… that equals one very strong vodka tonic and a beer to chase with later.
After he retrieves me a drink, Clark talks to me for another ten minutes and introduces me to so many people that I can’t manage to hold onto a single one of their names. I think to myself, This is L.A. Can’t people just hand me their business cards? It would make all of this a lot easier.
I take another sip of my drink, hoping it will chill me out. I don’t know what it is about drinks, but having that cup in your hand—at first glance, an utterly useless prop—is a better weapon to fight social awkwardness than the actual liquor in it.
Minutes later, I find myself on the couch, pretending to participate in a conversation in which I’m really nothing more than a background actor. I take another sip, and another as I intermittently laugh at bad jokes and give off the appearance that I could belong here. But as I listen to all these LAGs, sitting around shooting the shit, I can’t seem to take my mind off of him. I keep thinking about the last boy I was seeing and how I’m finally, finally over him. I wonder if I will fall into a similar trap with someone here. But things are different now—I was young and naive then. I know much more about life now, much more about boys.
I go for another sip of my drink, but all I get is a slurp. “Excuse me,” I say to no one in particular as I stand to leave and get a refill.
I arrive at the makeshift bar, manned by two shirtless boys in their mid 20s, who are ridiculously hot in a boring All-American kind of way. “Another vodka tonic?” They ask. “No, he’ll have a cherry pop.” It’s Chase again, standing there smiling. “Actually, I’ll just have a beer.” “I realized, I remember you,” Chase says. “I was confused at first. I thought you were one of Clark’s boys—I can’t keep track of them all,” he jokes.
“That’s…creepy,” I want to say, but instead I just smile politely. “You having a good time?” He asks. “It’s a blast,” I reply with a pinch of sarcasm. “Hey bitch,” yells a smiling black guy to Chase as he walks over. “Where you been?” Chase shoots back. After listening to this guy speak for a couples seconds, I can’t tell if he has discarded all acknowledgement of social barriers, of if he’s just really high. Either way, I’m equal parts intrigued and scared.
“I just found the love of my life,” he tells us. “Oh yeah? Who?” I ask. “See that guy with the Huntington Beach shirt? I’m gonna marry him.” “What happened to the last guy you were going to marry? Remember the twinky blonde kid?” Chase reminds him. “Oh, man! That was like three and a half minutes ago. I’m over him!”
The guy then proceeds to walk over to “Huntington,” who is standing in a group of people. He taps “Huntington” on the shoulder and within seconds, digits are being exchanged.
“Is he always that… assertive?” I ask Chase. “Yeah, it works for him.” Clearly, it does. I then notice a tan and very well groomed guy, who I would guess is in his late 20s moving toward us. He stops to give Chase a hug. “What’s going on?” Chase asks after they embrace. “Not much. Just got back from visiting my dads this weekend.” A straight guy with gay dads, hanging solo at a gay party? How progressive!
“Hi, I’m Ken,” he says to me. I smile, charmed by his suave persona. But it’s the same story as the couch. They drop names I’ve never heard and swap stories requiring some kind of decoder. Plus, it’s getting really crowded now. As I look around, I decide to finish what’s left of my beer. “I’m going to throw this out,” I inform them.
As I toss the empty bottle in a nearby trashcan, someone bumps into me. “Oh, sorry,” he says. I jump a little, which reminds me I need to relax. As I walk the few steps back to my posse, I notice the guy, who bumped into me is following. “Hey,” he says to Ken and Chase. Seriously? Does everybody know everybody here? I look around. There must be at least a hundred people outside alone. Then the guy looks at me. “Sorry for running into you back there, I’m…” But it’s too loud to make out his name. “Don’t worry about it,” I say, introducing myself.
I notice his eyes. There’s something kind of profound about them. He looks at me a little differently than anyone else has tonight. He’s cute… maybe. If I had to guess, I’d say 24. Definitely not my type though.
“Do you live around here?” He asks, and I notice our conversation beginning to break off from the others’. “Yeah,” I answer. “Where are you from?” “I moved here from New York.” “My ex moved to New York a few months ago. It’s an incredible city,” he says. “It’s the best.”
“It’s getting kind of loud.” Another big group of people rolls in. “Yeah, let’s go somewhere a little quieter,” he suggests. I follow him inside, and he leads me upstairs. I walk slowly behind him, admiring some of the African art on the wall.
“Let’s go in here,” he says of the bedroom, but it’s too late. When I reach the top of the steps, I’ve already seen the magnificent view from the balcony, and I can’t help but step outside. It’s the whole of Los Angeles. All of the buildings and people, all of the potential laid out, waiting for me. “It makes you consider everything, doesn’t it?” He asks. I nod my head.
“You have a really cute smile,” he says. I nearly laugh, even though I don’t know why. Luckily, it just plays out on my face as an even bigger smile. “Thank you,” I say. See? People in L.A. can be nice. I look at this guy, and I think to myself that maybe I can open up to someone again. I let my wall down.
“So what do you do?” He asks.
“I just moved to L.A. a couple weeks ago, so I don’t have anything lined up yet. But I do have a few interviews. I know a couple of people on this one show, and I think it’s pretty much a done deal. But what I really want to do is write.”
As I talk, I watch this guy and notice the way he listens. He’s so attentive.
“If you ever want someone to take a look at your work, I’d be happy to. And I’m friends with a few agents,” he offers. “That would be cool,” I say but take it with a grain of salt.
“So what do you do? What do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask playfully. “Well actually, I’m a writer.”