With his lease expiring a few days later, Bart moved his things into Tyler’s apartment over the weekend. They were braving the next step, and Brooklyn was losing one of its best guys to the mad island. You’d have thought he was moving out of the country by our behavior: before the afternoon move, we shared one final workout on Flatbush, one last bagel on Vanderbilt, one more stroll down Eastern Parkway into Grand Army Plaza and upon Prospect Park. “Barty, it’s all still here, whenever you need it,” Tyler told him. “I don’t understand why you’re so nostalgic moving just five miles away.” After we packed up his things and said our tearful goodbye, I walked very slowly down Park Place, looking at each earth-tone row house and soaking up the silence. I hated whichever future version of myself would decide to leave this behind.
Most days, I was in a Brooklyn holding pattern: I would walk half a mile between my home in Prospect Heights and my office in Fort Greene. I sometimes avoided Manhattan for a week at a time, breaking only for business lunches or an overnight at Simon’s. Now with Bart in Manhattan, Peter and I would likely find ourselves taking frequent social commutes. “It sucks he had to move to Chelsea specifically,” Peter commented on one such Q-train ride into the city. “Do you think he’ll turn tacky and wear really ugly jeans and eat at Cafeteria or Elmo?” We both laughed at the thought of him assimilating to the 8th Avenue scene. However, our jokes of Bart changing were soon turned to genuine concern: we arrived at his apartment and he greeted us at the door, freshly shaven. “Why. The hell. Would you shave. Your beard?” Peter shrieked. “Your beautiful. Perfect. Beard…!”
“The move just felt like the right time to change things up,” Bart said. “You know, like how some women dye their hair or cut it really short after a breakup. Or like how Joanie did the same thing when she became Saturant. Transitions are good for these types of things. Plus, I can’t stand one more New York summer with a nest on my face. The rest of me gets sweaty enough.” My shock was mostly for show, but Peter seemed genuinely angry: “Some of us can hardly grow four dots of stubble and yet you’ve got this gift, and you just…throw it away.” Bart laughed: “I didn’t know our friendship was so conditional. I guess Manhattan has really changed me.” He excused himself to the restroom, and Peter threw me a disgusted look as he mouthed the words “What the hell?” Then Bart, from the bathroom: “I can hear you, baby face.”
There was one more noticeable difference following Bart’s move: He was spending more time with Tyler’s friends. The film shoot was wrapping for an expedient summer turnaround, and Tyler was freed up to see all of his college pals who had migrated to the city for their own shot at acting. “I have to admit, I feel like I am aging backwards,” said Bart. “Not only am I surrounded by 50-year-old Chelsea men who act 22, I’m surrounded by 22-year-old boys and girls who act 22.” I noticed Tyler would tag along less frequently with all three of us, too, which Bart chalked up to “Just him embracing being young, and maybe keeping a slightly bigger professional separation between client and manager. But don’t worry, he still loves you.” Yeah, enough to promise all of his punk friends that I would manage them. His recent distance was probably a result of my rejecting every goddamn one of them.
Manhattan was a happier place for me for the time being. Back home in Brooklyn, it seemed like everyone was licking their wounds—myself included. I was still seeing Omar, but with slight reservations given his hesitation to my exclusivity proposal. I didn’t mind the freedom to still hook up with other men at my free will, but by no means was it a victory for our union. Peter was buckled down on his expenses (“Thank God my two best friends are sober! I’m going dry for a while, too.”) and Joanie was feeling pressured by Dixon’s request to move in with her after just a couple months. “It’s a good thing I really love him,” she said. “He’s got this way about him, I just can’t say ‘no’ to anything he suggests.” Her tiny studio would be so cramped with both of them there; she had me feeling very grateful for my unattached status.
“Someone’s been spending lots of time in Manhattan lately,” Simon said at one of our overnight hangouts. “Yes, but it’s an empowered decision,” I responded defiantly. I certainly wouldn’t admit to him that Manhattan was finally charming me. “You’re as much of a borough snob as I am,” he would always say; I was happy to avoid any more of that conversation for the evening. Our night was instead taking an adventurous turn after He proposed inviting a third person—to be determined by Grindr—to join us. I kind of like the idea, so we opened the app and started browsing. We were courting a prospect, but then the guy ruined the mood: “Can I sleep over after? Since I live in Jersey City,” he asked. Simon and I looked at each other. I turned off my phone; it would be just the two of us tonight. Not because of the proposed sleepover, either. I mean, Jersey City? No.