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.