Bart and I went out in East Village one Saturday. Having just deleted his various dating and hookup apps, he was hell-bent on meeting a guy in person. I was his proverbial wingman, though he was really just counting on me to deliver someone to him: “You’ll probably know a dozen people at the bar, so maybe you can introduce me to the cute ones? Except none of those Broadway gays. I can’t stand those queens.” As if on cue, a tall, lanky mess of a drag queen sauntered over. “I can barely stand in these shoes, much less walk.” It was Peter, who must have been seven feet tall between the red heels and Dolly Parton hair.
“Your makeup is terrible,” Bart said bluntly, examining Peter’s first attempt at contouring. “Are you going to a costume party or something?” Peter wasn’t having the criticism: “Are you worried you won’t get laid with Miss Walnut Creek hovering over your shoulder?” I spit out my seltzer, wheezing. “Is that your name? Miss Walnut Creek?” “Sure as fuck is,” Peter responded, adjusting his stuffed halter top. Peter was from Walnut Creek, near San Francisco. “Good call,” I said, patting him on the butt. “And, you know, those Chinese-Scandinavian cheek bones of yours take the blush quite well.”
Miss Walnut Creek was a hit. It didn’t matter that her makeup looked like finger paint—she was taking photos with everyone in the joint. Bart was still a little put out: “Is everybody going to change personas overnight? Are you going to be Miss Walnut Creek’s manager now, too?” He downed his ginger beer and ordered another, just as I noticed my friend Damien walk in with the most handsome Middle Eastern man. “How about him?” I nudged Bart and pointed to the bearded beefcake. “I know his friend, let’s go chat.” Bart trailed nervously behind as we squeezed our way through the bar.
Peter was busy entertaining strangers while Bart and I mingled with Damien and his friend Yusef. Damien and I had met at a New Years party a few winters ago, and we inevitably run into one another every few months. He knew what was up when Bart and I came over, and seemed intent on helping make magic happen. Yusef was new to the city from Turkey, studying fashion design at Parson’s. He was polite and charming, though clearly more interested in his phone than he was Bart. “I think he’s on Grindr,” Bart whispered to me. “I keep seeing him open it and smiling as he texts someone. I should have never deleted my apps!”
Yusef clearly signed on the dotted line with somebody, as he kissed each of us goodbye and hurried away for his hookup. Damien left thereafter, and Bart scanned the room, disappointed. “This is harder than it’s supposed to be. I’ve probably chatted with half of these guys through my fucking iPhone, yet we’re too afraid to interact in person. Or at least I am when I’m sober.” I slurped the melting ice from the bottom of my drink, and didn’t have much to add—I agreed entirely. Then Peter pranced over: “I’ve got to go. I’ve been grinding this Turkish delight named Yusef, and he’s heading to my apartment so I need to get a cab and shower, fast.” Bart could only laugh: “In drag or not, at least he’s getting over his ex.”
Bart and I were four paces out of the bar when we ran into Jack on the street. I was heading to Simon’s, so Bart took the immediate cue to catch a cab home. “Goooood luck,” he uttered as he climbed into the taxi. “Haven’t heard from you in a couple weeks,” Jack said. “It’s a little experiment,” I replied. “Because I haven’t heard from you either, and I’m tired of being the sole instigator.” He invited me over to his place, which was just up the street. “I’ve been seeing someone,” I told him. He wasn’t expecting this news, as evidenced by his stammering search for a response.
I finally got Jack to crack open, only now I didn’t need him to. “But—you told me I was the only one you were seeing,” he said. “I thought we had a good thing?” “You never gave me the reassurance I wanted, Jack, even when I asked you for it.” I was surprised that he reacted so defensively. Whatever modern twist on relationships and intimacy Jack possessed, I had still been his key holder. My phone began to buzz in my pocket—it was most certainly Simon, wondering what was taking so long. How nice that he noticed when I wasn’t around.