Peter was entertaining a job offer at Condé Nast and leveraging it into a promotion with his current publisher. Bart had just started his new gig managing Simon’s music venue, an obvious fit and hard-earned upgrade. I was thrilled for them, but my happiness was slightly clouded for obvious reasons. “Your luck will change, too, Eric,” said Bart over dinner as he read my silence. “At least you get unemployment and severance. And I bet a lot of people would hire you, regardless of what Sam says. Anyway, how long before you can start poaching his clients?” I thought for a second—I had never signed any papers. No non-competes, no nothing. “Eric,” said Peter upon learning this. “You could take everything from him.”

I consulted with a few experts about the likelihood of building my own client roster from some of the actors under Sam, and the consensus was that I could and should. I planned to go after just a couple of his actors—the ones I figured would trust me wholly, and only those few who felt a greater allegiance to me than to him. In the very least, I would get Tyler, who had promised to help recruit others once I had an official firm and could formally book him some auditions. What a blessing, to have a vote of confidence from someone who could easily land a headlining role in TV or film. I blame his youth for trusting me so blindly. “But will you be Eric, or Eddy?” he inquired. I really wasn’t sure.

One cold, rainy fall weekday, I woke for a run through Prospect Park. It’s calming to see the park so deeply blue, and running in the rain always feels empowering since few people even consider it. We all smile at one another—a rarity in New York—as if to say “Hey, I see you’re crazy too!” In high school, my soccer coach would make us practice whenever it rained, to condition us for the chance of a downfall on game day. There we were, sliding for the ball in the mud, our cleats filled with water, our mothers dreading the next laundry load. My junior year, we won the state title in the pouring rain in a 6-0 shutout. The wincing grin on my face in Prospect Park this morning recalled the day I hoisted that trophy over my head.

I feel most confident when I run. Any anguish is leveled, and only the most self-assured thoughts rise to my head. As I buckled past the fowl-dotted lake, I thought of Sam. I felt angry. I felt defensive but also assertive. I was a firefighter running into a burning building as others hurried out. I was a soccer player—the captain—who was responsible for his team’s success in a pivotal match. There, just in front of me, the ball. And 20 paces ahead, the goalie with no time to calculate my attack. I choked for air as I sprinted full speed up the final hill, my mind focused and impregnable to anything around me. To earn my livelihood here, I had worked hard, I had been nice to everyone, I had spent years managing my own reputation, all as an investment. The endorphins crested atop the hill and I, soaked with rain, felt taller and more confident than ever: I would rip Sam Goldstein into a million goddamn pieces.

It’s important for gay men in New York—and any place, I suppose—to stay civil with past lovers. We are experts at saving face, and we each feel a lifelong, intimate attachment to our ex-boyfriends and boys du jour. Our worlds overlap in ways that no heterosexual person could understand: when you can all have sex with each other, you have to manage your trail. We become friends with our hookups, we set up our friends with our exes, we refer our exes for jobs: “He found my prostate, thus I offer my full endorsement…or something.” Simon was the first person I called for help as I started anew. “Wow, one past flame asking me how to best steal clients from another past flame. Lucky for you, I’ve got some ideas, Sam is a terrible human, and I’m honored to help.”

“Stealing Sam’s clients” wasn’t my actual goal. I needed a client base, and naturally they would come from people who knew and trusted me. “Stealing Sam’s clients” would be my fun way of looking at it. The ones I was targeting had spent more time on the phone and getting casting directions from me than they ever had with Sam. Plus, I needed them to succeed in order for me to succeed, whereas Sam had settled into a comfortable rhythm with his major money makers like James Thurston. I knew of a few unsigned actors that I would pursue as well, hoping for a starting roster of at least 10 people, plus Joanie, of course. Simon helped with legal stuff as I handled the mum’s-the-word phone calls to agents and casting directors. Their collective feedback: “We’ve been waiting for this to happen. Let us know how we can help.”

“What do you want to call your company?” Simon asked. I was staring at the paperwork—government forms and official documents. I had a web-designer friend ready to buy a domain for me too, but hadn’t settled on a name. I felt like I had to come up with a name at that very moment, so my mind raced. Something aspirational? Too cheesy. Maybe something about Brooklyn, or about Kansas? No—I liked the idea of being sentimental, though. Then, Talia’s smiling face popped into my head, and I grabbed the pen from Simon, filling in the blank spaces with “Fortalia Management.” “OK, kind of sounds like ‘genitalia,’ but it’s not my call, great,” said Simon. “And now, sign here and here.” I signed “Eric Condor” on each page, but a swelling power in my head knew that that was just for the official papers. I was suddenly confident about one more thing: I would again be Eddy Condor.

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