It wasn’t long before New York had me back to my aggressive self. “Sorry, cash only,” said the bagel shop clerk, as I held out my debit card. This is a very frequent occurrence around Brooklyn—rarely Manhattan, though—and it always sets me off. “WHY. Why cash only? That is so inconvenient for the customer.” She pointed to an ATM behind me. “No, I’m not going to pay a two-dollar fee so that I can buy a two-dollar bagel. Why don’t you just accept cards and charge a 50-cent fee or something? God damnit. Are you guys trying to avoid paying taxes or something?” She stared at me, annoyed: “Are you buying the bagel or not?” “No. I refuse to support your inconsiderate business practices.” “So, what am I supposed to do with the bagel?” she asked. “Throw it away, for all I fucking care.” She shoved the bagel at me: “Here, take it, ass hole. Put it in that trash hole you call your foul mouth.”

“Eric, what has gotten into you?” Peter asked, after I recounted the story about the bagel clerk. “These past couple months you’ve been so touch-and-go.” I didn’t have to think hard about what was getting under my skin: “There’s just so much up in the air right now. I feel unsettled not knowing how the pieces will fall into place, and how long it’ll take til I’m coasting with this.” I had one major thing going for me, though: Tyler had officially left Sam, and was signed with Fortalia Management. And on our first official day as manager and client, I put him on tape for the J.J. Abrams picture. “I have a lot of things resting on the shoulders of a rookie actor,” I said to Peter. “Thank God he’s beautiful, and thank God he’s sleeping with our best friend.”

Tyler’s departure from Sam wasn’t easy, of course. He got a few threats about career sabotage, then Tyler’s agents called Sam and said he had better dial it back, as they would gladly woo their other clients away from him. That’s when I started getting calls from him, too. First, a couple voicemails, one threatening physical harm, the next one apologizing, but still promising to end my career. I had never had a nasty breakup, but that’s precisely what this one felt like. I called Sam when I felt ready to talk. He mostly screamed at me, asked why I was after him like this, and said “I should choke you underwater,” at which point I laughed aloud, because it was kind of funny. Then I shared some news with him: “Sam. Tyler got the Abrams part! We start press next week.” Sam hung up, but his assistant Erica remained on the line. I could hear her breathing nervously. “Call Eva at Gersh if you want a better life,” I said before hanging up.

Within a week I had five clients: Joanie, Tyler, a commercial actress I also wooed away from Sam, plus two of Tyler’s unsigned college classmates I had wanted Sam to pickup. I had emails coming in from a few others since Tyler’s recent casting news had been announced, and suddenly I found myself busy making calls with publicists, agents, casting directors, and more. I grew tired of asking everyone to call me Eric-not-Eddy, but knew that in time it would all be an afterthought. The big hurdle right now was getting Tyler out of his stage contract, and luckily Simon and his lawyers kept close. Things with Simon felt better than ever; we had weekly lunches at his apartment so he could answer my millions of business questions, and to catch up on our convenient, no-strings-I-swear, casual sex.

Peter and his doctor beau Alex were getting rather serious of late. I knew Peter’s heart was guarded and afraid to open up to someone just yet, but Peter knew that Alex was a gem of a man, and that timing might not give him the chance to wait things out. One night, when Bart and I joined them for dinner, Alex got called in for a surgery and had to rush away. Bart and I stared at our darling Peter from across the booth, as he was completely lost in thought. “Peter, he’s perfect. You know that right?” said Bart, somewhat poorly timed. “And he’s crazy about you.” Peter said nothing as he stirred his decaf coffee slowly. I noticed he was wearing the watch his ex-boyfriend Dale had given him for their second anniversary. It was the same watch he had returned to Dale when they broke up.

A week later, Peter’s worries were realized: Alex had proposed becoming boyfriends. Peter did the most Peter thing possible and made a T-chart of pros and cons. “None of that matters,” I told him. “He can be a doctor, a dreamboat, our age, a gentleman, all of it. You’ve kept him around this long, which is well above average for any of us. You like him, right?” Then Bart said what he and I were both wondering: “Are you seeing Dale again?” Peter looked up at Bart, his eyes wide as if he had been accused of murder. “So what if I am?” he said defensively. “As if either of you can cast the first stone. Eric’s still sleeping with Simon.” “OK, stop pretending like you’re Jesus,” said Bart. “Also, Eric was never in love with Simon, and they dated for like five hours. At this point, seeing Dale is a habit. And as much as we all liked him, it’s officially a bad habit. So stop. And stop making a fool of poor, perfect Alex.”

As soon as he was honest with himself (and with us), Peter ended things with Alex. “I just let a really good one go,” he said as we shopped for dinner ingredients. He had also called it off with Dale once more. “It just felt safe, and familiar, and I don’t want to play that damn dating game again, but I still want attention like anyone else… I need some time away from men.” Then, five minutes later: “Why is timing so important to these things? Alex was perfect, but how inconvenient to find him when I did. Why not a year from now, when my head is cleared out?” We went to pay, and the clerk apologized because the card readers were down. “We can only take cash,” she said. Peter could tell I was going to explode, and quickly handed her a large bill. “Just Venmo me,” he said. “And start carrying some goddamn change for once.”

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