Sunday, June 10, 2012

Loring Park Episode #3: Proverbial Fat Friend

The nights on "Gays of our Lives" went by so fast when Joey was here. There was one night when he desperately wanted to talk to Star Quarterback when I pointed him out. "Come on!!!" he cried. "It'll be fun!!" But I staidly refused. Like Jim Wilson, my conversation with Star Quarterback, should it ever happen, should be organic.

I enjoyed going out with Joey, being his wingman or gay mother of sorts. Don't get me wrong, I love going out with Jared (and occasionally his gal pal Rachel), and I still wistfully remember nights at the Gay '90s with Sina, when we were new to this whole thing and dreamt of one day being recognized (well, actually, I just dreamt it. She actually has it happen to her).

In some ways, hanging out with Joey was like being the Fat Friend, a term I use proverbially at 116 pounds (although I did just eat one and a half Lean Pockets, EZ-Cheese on generic Wheat Thins because I thought I was buying generic Triscuits, and I had chicken drummies at bingo). Our friendship was strictly platonic, and so while we would hold hands in order to keep track of each other, I was fine to let him fly into the world of The Saloon. He was soon to move to Green Bay, and while he hopes to move back by summer and I believe in my heart he will, I also remember that my "living at home for a year and then I'll move out to Los Angeles and see the world!!" plan didn't really take off. As long as he wasn't being creeped on by a skeevy older dude, I was fine to watch him dance with others while I schmoozed with bartenders and acquaintances.

At the end of one of those nights, he was dancing with a cute Hollister shirt and baseball cap. It wasn't until we were leaving that I had realized he'd been dancing with KEVIN, the total fratty-douchey perfect type that I thought was a hologram from the week prior! We then had a very middle school girl conversation on the way home.

"I'm so sorry!" he cried. "I didn't know it was him!"

"No, it's okay," I pouted. "You're cuter than me. You're young and skinny. I get it."

"Oh my god, I'm not even into guys like that," Joey pleaded. "He wasn't even dancing with me that much. He kept obsessing with his hair."

I swooned. "How old is he?" I asked.

"I don't know," Joey said. "I think he's 20, because he pointed to his hand." On Sundays and Thursdays, The Saloon is 18+ but puts a big red X on your hand to let bartenders know you are not available for business and to let ocelots know that you are also not available for business, but please?

I can't remember which night this was. As I said, they blur together, even when I look at the calendar. The Sunday before Memorial Day, we went to the '90s with Sina first and then went to The Saloon. Joey wore one of my T-shirts and I flashbacked to when I was 14, living in Alexandria, and I let my friend for that summer borrow my Quiksilver tee, and he filled it out so well with his muscles that I never dared to wear it again. Sina put a picture of us on Instagram, someone joked that Joey was Vanilla Ice, and Sina, who was raised in Cambodia, asked "what's vanilla ice?" and I made fun of her for a whole week because I thought it was adorable that she probably thought vanilla ice was a beverage or specialty food item and not the first man to have a #1 rap hit in the United States (yeah, think about that fact, America).

                                                 I look 87 in this picture.

His last night in town was the 3rd, so this must have been that last Thursday. I didn't work until late on Friday, so Jared, Joey and I all planned to hit up The Saloon for College Night (there is a story in between here that I will share for a different episode). If you get there before midnight, you get a free drink provided you check in on Facebook (which I can do that, now, because I finally joined this century and got a Smartphone -- that is for a different episode as well). Oh! Speaking of the Smartphone, part of the reason that it took so long for us to leave the apartment was that, as a gay man with a Smartphone, I had to start a Grindr account and then find an appropriate picture (and the whole thing is a joke, really, and I only go on it as an anthropological study). Also, I really hate my Grindr picture and need to just find a cute one from five years ago to use.

Joey was still contrite about his friend that had puked so close to us on our previous episode. "It's okay," I said. "Some people just don't know how to drink. But I don't puke." Then I knocked on the wall. Guess what else you can do when you join this century with a Smartphone? You can obnoxiously "check in" at places! If you do this at The Saloon on Thursdays before midnight, you get a free drink. Unfortunately, we kept gabbing and dancing and taking Grindr pics, and before we knew it, it was 11:40! The Saloon is exactly one mile from my apartment.

We sprinted the best we could, even Joey, who was a cross-country star in high school, but we were too late and strolled in at The Saloon at 12:02. I didn't even want a stupid free drink, but we did scare the hell out of a poor man walking outside of the CVS on Hennepin Avenue. Sprinting gays are the new bath-salt zombies.

Jared and I bee-lined to his favorite bartender so we could get non-free drinks quickly, and Joey went to go dance. Jared is not even a year older than Joey but I am 27 years older than Joey, and therefore we feel that he is our gay child. "We must let him fly," I remember saying, but then Jared went to go smoke so I decided to chaperone on the dance floor. The dance floor was scattered with well-dressed twentysomethings wearing VOTE NO stickers, and I assumed they must have arrived from a fundraiser. I also assumed them to be heterosexual, and so when a very good-looking dude in his late twenties came up to me, making conversation with a smile, I didn't feel like I was flirting.

"No one's dancing!" he yelled.

"Proper whorebox etiquette is to wait until you're invited," I explained. "But right now no one's on there, so we're good!"

We helped each other up to the whorebox, and Joey was behind us. He introduced himself as Scott, and then I realized under the strobe lights that he really was dreamy, built like he probably played football but never pursued it all through high school, and he had dimples you could put grocery bags in. I introduced myself to his friend as to not be rude, but his friend avoided eye contact and was rather distant. Still, how great was it that straight guys were dancing on the whorebox? I thought to myself as I danced in circles how wonderful it was, and how maybe Minnesota really can be the anti-homophobia state this fall, and then I worried if my Twitter was getting too political lately because I do have Republican friends that I respect and I never want to come off as preachy, and oh look, Scott and Joey are making out, wait, what?

I felt weird about it, but I had no idea why I felt weird. Remember sixth grade science when the first chapter is all about the scientific method, and Step 1 is Identify the Problem? I had to Identify the Emotion. I wasn't jealous of Scott; Joey and I are not romantically inclined, although we have admitted that the other is good-looking. I wasn't jealous of Joey because I knew he was moving away soon and I wanted him to live it up the best he could; I instead realized that I felt like the Proverbial Fat Friend. You see them hanging out with girls much prettier than they are, and they usually end up holding all of the purses. It is wrong and unfair and I am not saying it is right, but it is the best (albeit horrifically un-PC) way to describe how I felt.

Jared was still smoking and hob-knobbing, so I went to Danny's bar in the back of The Saloon. While Danny is the Iron Chef of bartenders and I knew he could have whipped up anything he could, I decided on Absolut Mandarin on the rocks. Jared and Joey both came up to me at around the same time. Joey explained that Scott gave him a fake phone number and if he would see him again, he would kick his ass.

"Young man!" I cried. "We will not have you fighting."

"I don't have enough money to bail you out," Jared said. "Starships" by Nicki Minaj blared, and Jared dragged me to the dance floor. "It's our morning song!" Whenever Jared sleeps over and we have to drive to work, "Starships" is what makes us feel awake and ready to take on the day. I think it's because it reminds us that just hours ago we were at the club, and that no matter how stressful the day will be, we can be soothingly reminded that in mere hours or days, we will be back at the club.

After our song, Jared and I went in for refills while Joey sat next to us. Still feeling confused about the Scott thing, I decided to lay my cards out on the table.

"Is it awkward if we make out?" I asked Joey, in a flat tone of voice that suggested I was asking if he preferred to have dinner at the Olive Garden or Applebee's.

"No," he answered, in a completely normal way, like if I were a waiter asking if he wanted his ranch on the side or not. I think I used that analogy because I am starving. We never did make out and we're both fine with that, yet it was a moment that made me realize how gay guys really do get to have the best friendships in the world.

It was time to dance again, and I started feeling like maybe I should not have ordered a goose lemonade without eating anything all day except for a Claritin-D. All I know is that my vision was blurry when Joey was dancing with a boy in a Hollister t-shirt, and it wasn't until I finished downing my Goose lemonade that things cleared up. "Jared," I gritted as I violently grabbed his shirt. "He's dancing with Kevin."

"Well, go say hi!" Jared encouraged.

"No, I'm not gonna C-block our son," I pouted.

"Ugh, I'll go over there and say hello for you," he said.

The next thing I knew, it was closing time and the four of us were standing outside of The Saloon, Kevin staring at all of us intensely and me trying to be outgoing without seeming desperate. After all, he was Joey's, right? I was the Fat Friend who was in charge of breakfast the next day.

We walked the mile to my apartment. I forget if we were in a group or paired off. I want to say we paired off. I think I was nervous. It was KEVIN. My #1 crush, probably more now than Star Quarterback, and he was going to BE IN MY APARTMENT. I didn't have any board games. Was it clean? I knew I made Joey put the sheets on because I have the fine motor skills of an infant. But I don't have a couch! Only two of us could have the bed and two could sleep on the floor. Was Kevin into drugs? Was he expecting an orgy? I mean, I really didn't know anything about him because I'm too scared to talk to him.

These were the thoughts going through my head as I passed out in my walk-in closet, which reeks of cat pee from the previous owner.

"Jakeygggghhhh," Jared spoke from the pillow he was passed out in. "Are you okayggghhh?"

"Yes," I said, and then the ceiling was shaking. Was I expecting Joey or Kevin to come save me? They didn't, but it was for the best, as I, the one who NEVER pukes, was soon worshipping the porcelain god. I took a shower, and when I got out, Kevin and Joey were gone. It was fine. I was too tired and stressed out to care.



The next morning, Jared and I awoke for our usual excursion back to the mall. I called Joey and left a message, but he didn't pick up. On my lunch break, I texted him again. In my head, he had played board games with Kevin and felt bad about it because he knew I liked Kevin and didn't want me to disapprove, but I'm not in eighth grade! I am so down with it! But now it was 4:30 in the afternoon and I was becoming increasingly worried. What time was it when they left the apartment? Did Kevin try to mug him or rape him? Did someone try to mug and rape the both of them?

"How soon is it to file a missing person's report?" I asked a co-worker.

"24 hours," she explained.

I started feeling queasy, queasier than the night prior when I actually threw up. I could have given two shits about if he had done anything physical with Kevin at this point. My child was missing! He had moved out of his Minneapolis apartment and was couch-hopping until Sunday, and he had no next of kin in town to verify if a body got found. What would I tell the police? In that moment, I understood my mother, and the crippling fear that dictated her parenting style to the point that I had little to no independence or survival skills as a teenager.

Joey finally texted back at 5:15 PM. 'Omg im fine sorry haha'. Oh, that child of mine. I wanted to ask a million questions about Kevin, but I decided they could wait until Sunday. It was more important that I knew Joey was alive and well, not if Kevin is a good kisser or not.

Next time: We meet Gay Oprah!




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