SEASON 1, EPISODE 11

The boys gathered for a sunny Saturday picnic in Prospect Park. It was an Instagram-ready kind of afternoon, with hundreds of other New Yorkers surrounding us: dog owners, Frisbee throwers, sunbathers. I got a text from Tyler Weiland—the new actor we were representing—asking what I was up to, followed by: “Sorry, maybe it’s weird to ask my boss’s assistant, but I don’t really have friends here yet.” Funny, because every casting director in town wanted to be his best friend. Funnier yet, I couldn’t peel him away from a doe-eyed Bart all afternoon.

“Bart’s suddenly into the Broadway type, eh?” Peter remarked as we trekked to the restroom. “Think this kid needs buttering? Bart isn’t one to fuel an ego.” Having sent “this kid” Tyler out on a hundred calls, I knew he was lower maintenance than anyone else on our acting roster. “He’s fine,” I said. “Confident, real gracious. And how’s Yusef with the—sorry, how did you describe his ass?” Peter grinned: “A fuzzy magic lamp.” “Ha! Make any wishes?” “God, my wish already came true, I could rub it forever,” he said. “And he’s good. Great, actually. Doesn’t want a relationship, doesn’t want to top. How’s Simon? You said he was coming?” Simon had promised to join, but canceled with a text: “BK just too far today, bub. Errands aplenty, sorry. xx”

As evening neared, I got a text from Simon inviting me for dinner and a sleepover. I was feeling bitter that he deemed Prospect Park too far for a picnic—just a 20-minute subway ride, and a chance to meet my best friends—so I immediately turned to Peter, Bart, and Tyler: “You guys want to cook dinner at my place?” I invited a few others from the neighborhood—Mads and Joanie and a nice couple from upstairs. Then, I texted Simon: “Having friends over here. Come? I’ll take you for brunch in the morning.” I knew his response before it arrived, and instead had a perfectly lovely evening not socially coddling a man 20 years my senior.

When Saturday’s final minutes crept away, I got a text telling me that Jack was in the neighborhood and “just seeing if I could say hi in 20 mins.” My gut said no, but I felt confident enough in my decision to break things off with him, so I feigned exhaustion and sent everyone on their way. Bart and Tyler were last to leave—together, totally smitten—and soon after, Jack was in my living room, calling me “furball” and looking handsome like he does, apologizing for “never listening, never ever listening.” “I thought you just wanted to say hello, Jack,” I said. He finally made eye contact instead of speaking to the floor: “Every morning of every day.” Woof. If his line had been better, I might have given in.

I am very grateful for my sobriety, which is especially useful for making sound emotional decisions at 1 a.m. on Sunday mornings, a prime hour when others would fall victim to lessened judgment. I sent Jack home to Alphabet City, despite every urge in my body to suck the melodrama from the air, straight from his mouth, with me atop him on the kitchen floor. Instead, I sat on the cold tiles, ate half a jar of chunky peanut butter, and watched two mice scurry back and forth from my cupboard to my stove. They were frequent nighttime visitors, and since my food was safely stored, their presence never bothered me. The half-full jar of peanut butter was my own companion, joined by the half-empty flask of vodka at its side.

The shame I felt on Sunday morning was crippling. All of the support I had been shown, the promises I had made, for nothing. For stupid Jack. I stayed in bed til noon, hung over and angry. Going against every principle of my recovery program, I had tucked away that “emergencies-only” beverage for more than three years, even from Talia when we shared an apartment, and had refrained from using it so many times. I kept it to feel empowered knowing how close it was, and how easily I could resist temptation. I threw the flask into a trash bin once I finally went outside. My biggest fear was falling back to a place where I needed welfare from anyone, especially those who had worked so hard to make me strong. I would tell nobody of this.

Simon and I met for dinner in Chelsea, and he ordered two appetizers, three sides, two entrees, and dessert, all to share. Despite my best acting, he knew I was upset about him bailing on our Saturday plans. He said he got nervous to meet my friends, worried they might judge him for being so old. “You didn’t even give them a chance to like you,” I said. “And instead they saw me disappointed, which didn’t help your cause.” “OK, so let’s atone, Eric. I can have them over for dinner this week. I’ll even invite a few of my friends.” It all seemed too convenient for him—not having to downgrade to my level. When the check arrived, I insisted we split it, despite his assumption that he was solely responsible.

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