Bart and I inched our way off the plane in LA, stuck in economy while Tyler got put in first class. “How was your flight, princess?” Bart sneered as we met Tyler at the gate. “It was so amazing. I could get used to this,” Tyler said, totally appreciative. I knew he’d be jaded by this soon—movie premieres and press junkets around the world—but I soaked up this moment where my star was still grateful for every little thing; it made me grateful, as well. The following day, Tyler’s excitement turned into nerves as we suited up for the big red carpet blitz. Bart rubbed his boyfriend’s neck, looking handsomer than I had ever seen him. It was another moment of gratitude, seeing Bart so changed, so loyal, so confident in himself and his relationship. I pushed them out the limousine as the crowd roared—here was America’s new darling. I lingered a few paces behind, not entirely sure what to do as Tyler spoke to reporters and the pair posed for photos. Mostly, I felt numb. A good numb. Gratitude.
The best part of the weekend was not the premiere nor the terrific critical reception that “Peril” was receiving. The best part of the weekend was that, after the hoopla, the three of us rented a car and drove to San Francisco to see Peter in his new habitat. I felt like Steve McQueen as I crested every peak of Peter’s Nob Hill neighborhood, and then I had to parallel park at a 45-degree angle before landing in his arms. Just a few days removed from New York, he already looked different; his hair was shorter and he seemed better rested, or maybe just at ease. He was starting work the next day, and he knew the city well enough to give us a very quick tour—burritos in the Mission, a stroll through the Castro, sunset at Crissy Field. “Thanks for driving all the way up here,” he told us as we sat in the sand of Crissy. “I hope you like my setup.” To see darling Peter so…relieved… yeah, I liked this setup, as much as I hated to admit it. I felt optimistic; if he could bravely start over without us, we could try the same.
It was a big week for clients and former clients alike: Tyler’s film “Peril” was opening wide on Friday, and Joanie’s LP “Buffer” was released Tuesday. Her reviews were mostly favorable; a few critics remarked that she had the talent but just needed the time to grow into it. Overall, it was a promising first album, with terrific production behind it. Joanie released her next single at the same time—the title track. It was slower and more restrained than her last single, the imposing, Lorde-assisted “Stop at Nothing.” This one highlighted her vocal range; it was just her and a piano, ever vulnerable, ever pointed: “I’ve wanted to say sorry for so long // But saying sorry feels so wrong // When I haven’t yet forgiven myself. // And until I grow a spine // Please know we’ll soon be fine // So long as you’ll forgive me one day too. // This buffer hides the pain // But builds me up again // I dream of us together in the end.”
After “Peril” made its New York premiere, Tyler had to fly back to LA to do a couple talk show appearances. I stole Bart for a day trip to Fire Island Pines, a gay-centric corner of an island out past the Hamptons. We planned to tan ourselves on the sweeping beaches, surrounded by beautiful, vapid men. It didn’t take long for me to feel out of place—no surprises there—, and I quickly wished Peter could be there to give me attention, seeing as Bart was the one getting all the stares today. I turned off the meter in my head that cared about any of that, and closed my eyes to relax in the sand. “Eric, you should rotate,” Bart said, poking me after an hour. “You’ll fry your furry tummy. Get some light on your back too.” I stubbornly flipped over; I had been intentionally hiding all the razor burn marks from my hasty back shaving earlier that day. “Oof, that looks so painful,” Bart remarked as he put sunscreen on me. “You should have just left it. Some guys love back hair!” “I appreciate the concern, Bart,” I replied, annoyed. I could feel the sun hitting the razor burn, reminding me of my foolishness.
Late in the afternoon, we went by the AA house to see some of our friends who had a time share for the week. There were ten guys staying in the house, but a good 30 or more mingling by the pool and on the deck. Bart hopped into the water to catch up with some buddies, and I took a moment to post a photo to Instagram. Then a comment came from Simon who said that he, too, was out in the Pines. A text followed. He was staying the week and invited Bart and me for a quick hello, but we were pressed for time. I told him we should instead catch up back in New York. Suddenly, some kid—maybe 23 or 24 is all—tapped my shoulder and introduced himself. He was cute-ish, though his eyes were at different latitudes and his hair was thinning. But he was clearly a charmer, which worked in his favor. “Rob, sober for a whole week,” he said upon our handshake. “Who would’ve guessed I’d get to chat with the most attractive man here?” I looked around and counted maybe ten or fifteen guys who easily had me beat, but suddenly Rob himself seemed a lot more appealing.
Rob and I spent an hour flirting, and it was right about the time Bart wanted to head back to the ferry and catch the train home. He read the situation and asked if I wanted to stay longer—I looked to Rob, who smiled and nodded, essentially inviting me to sleep over. Bart hugged me goodbye while whispering “You’re back in the game!” in my ear. With that, he was on his way. We all cooked dinner, then Rob and I walked along the beach in the moonlight back to his house. He pulled me into the bedroom and immediately disrobed. His body was maybe two percent body fat, and totally hairless. I climbed atop him on the bed, thankful to finally be out of my slump. He peeled my shirt up over me, but then let out an audible groan as he pushed me off of him. “Woof. Have you ever heard of a razor?” he said, disgusted by my chest hair. “That’s kind of… too much for me. And I thought maybe you’d be in better shape…”