SEASON 2, EPISODE 25

Jack was a few blocks away when I called, so I asked him to meet me. I wanted to give him the chance to explain himself in person. “Please tell me why you’re at the police station?” he asked when he showed up. I told him what had happened at the bar, what had been happening with Sam this whole while, and how Jack had been used as a pawn in all of it. “Eric. I had no idea he was Sam. You talked about him all the time, but I never had a face with the name. And he told me his name was Evan. Yeah, we fooled around. Once. But we didn’t have sex. And I never would have touched him if I had known it was Sam.” “OK,” I said, slightly less alarmed. “But how did he know who you were? And that we had history?” Jack thought for a second: “It was coincidence at first. But he saw a photo of you on my desk. He asked about it, and I told him how important you were to me. He pressed me for details, so I told him that you and I still love each other.”

A recap of my history with Jack: we met on Scruff, a hookup app. But we set up a proper date. With dinner came a very charged conversation. Then, kissing outside the restaurant. A few more dates to the same tune—the slowest I had ever taken things. Then suddenly, we spent nearly every night together for two months. I lost interest in seeing other people pretty early on, and when I told him so, he only ever responded with “That’s so sweet of you.” But I stayed close, knowing he would one day reply that he also was turning off any distractions. From then on, a tango. If I retreated, he would want me back. I had been “the Jack” for other people, too, and for that I blamed the cadre of men I had collected over my years here. So, while I was confused by Jack’s tug-of-war with my heart, I knew the diagnosis. He was addicted to men, addicted to the dynamics, afraid of a settle.

We went around the corner to get milkshakes. Jack walked two paces ahead of me. We were both silent, and I studied his face. What I wouldn’t do to shake my thoughts of that face, just for peace of mind. Then I studied the rest of him, recalling everything that was underneath those clothes, remembering how I would fall asleep on his chest while listening to his heartbeat. Even after he retreated, when we saw one another less frequently, I would let his pulse send me to sleep, trying to synchronize myself with it, desperate to understand him better. I snapped out of my trance as he went to pay for the milkshakes, quickly throwing my cash on the counter to cover my own. “Babe, what was that all about?” he asked as we walked back to the precinct. “Jack. Please take that photo of me off your desk. Please don’t talk about me to the men you have over. And… please go home.”

Peter was finally released around 3 a.m. He had lost his wig, and his makeup was smeared. “Thanks for waiting,” he said. “I’m… sorry. I think everything caught up to me, including the tequila.” He looked lost in thought, and pretty ashamed. “You OK, Miss Walnut Creek? Or are you Peter right now?” I asked. “I can’t tell since you’re kind of a mashup of both of them.” “God, I can’t wait to see my mug shot,” he joked. “And yeah, I’m fine. Perfectly fine. I just feel bad that I did that to Sam. I hope he’s alright.” We caught our taxi back to Brooklyn, and I quickly fell asleep, leaning over onto Peter as he gazed quietly over the Manhattan bridge. His heart was racing, though I could feel it slow as I gripped his hand and closed my eyes.

Sam was quietly watching TV when I entered his hospital room the next afternoon. His eye was bruised, his nose broken. He glanced at me and immediately looked back to the television. “Well well well. One person comes to visit me, and it’s you. How lucky I am.” “Sam, I didn’t come to perpetuate whatever grudge you have. I’m sorry this happened. It shouldn’t have, and Peter was totally out of line. I also talked with Jack.” Sam sat there sheepishly, still pretending that he was focused on the TV. Then: “So what the hell are you here for? To torment me? I’m not pressing charges. And don’t you have all my best clients at this point? Are you here to pay my bills with all of the income you stole?” “No. Sam. I’m worried you’re ruining your own career by coming after me. I’m not going anywhere. So stop trying to mess with that. I’m not going to tell anyone this happened. Nor will Tyler. So just… stop. Please.” “Eddy. Please take your head out of your ass. Stop trying to make yourself a hero in this situation. And… please go home.”

I got a call from Tyler’s agent Eva a few hours later. “Is it true what happened with Sam?” she asked sternly. “Eric, you need to tell me about these kinds of things, especially when my client is involved. He could have been injured. Arrested. We don’t need this kind of press before the movie.” I agreed and apologized. I was always apologizing, it seemed. “Who else knows?” I asked. “Everyone. Everyone knows that he followed you out last night. That he’s been threatening you.” “Eva, that’s a bit of a stretch. I talked with him today at the hospital and—.” “Nobody’s going to work with him now,” she said. “Not in my office. Not at ICM, either. Our agents are telling his clients to bail on him. You may as well poach the rest of his roster. I’ve already snagged his assistant. Eric—Sam’s career is over.”

I had a restless night wondering what Sam was thinking about, and how much he must hate me. I was mad at Tyler for not keeping his mouth shut, but I was tired of tracing footsteps and trying to mend something that was well beyond my ability to repair. Sam would be home from the hospital by now, alone with his certainly poisonous thoughts. His clients were dropping like flies—I had received a few calls and emails from some of them, asking if I was taking more clients. I declined each of them, even the ones who were booking jobs steadily and would have been easy and profitable to manage. I decided to watch a movie called “Gracie Manor,” which James Thurston had starred in a few years prior. It was the first big project I got to see a client complete, and I remembered Sam teaching me everything as we sent clients out on calls and sent James on numerous press tours, helping them and him build their own futures. I fell asleep during the end credits, cradling my pillow, searching for its pulse.

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