From some guys, you can expect the world. They know your fondness for foreign cinema, how you take comfort in spending your Sunday afternoons at home and most importantly, they share your appreciation for the little surprises in life. So on any given Sunday afternoon they might show up at your apartment unannounced with a copy of Amores Perros and a Hershey’s Cookies and Cream chocolate bar.
From some guys, you don’t even expect a future phone call. That’s why I was so surprised to hear from Toy Soldier three weeks after our New York Pride post-party rendezvous. He’s in town just for one night and wants to meet up, perhaps for drinks, perhaps for something more. He’s vague on the phone about his game plan, leaving it ambiguous for us to figure out as the night goes on. With an appetite for spontaneity, I invite him over to my place.
“Who was that?” Sunny D asks suspiciously. The tone of my voice while talking on the phone had revealed my intrigue with the stranger on the other side.
“Just a friend,” I answer, rather vague myself. “He’s coming over and going out with us tonight.” Sunny D tries to pretend not to be bothered by the abrupt addition of a third party. “He’s chill,” I reassure him after sensing the uneasiness he’s unable to hide. “We’ll have fun.”
Moments later, Toy Soldier arrives at my place looking exactly how I’d remembered him—his defined jaw, his strong neck, his broad shoulders and brawny chest tugging on his light blue t-shirt in all the right places.
“Hey there,” he says extending his arms. I smile and go up to give him a hug. Nothing can replicate what years of military combat training can do to naturally accentuate the contour of the male body. I introduce him to Sunny D who doesn’t hesitate to ask, “So… how do you guys know each other?” He’s sure there’s some decadent back-story to account for the strapping soldier sitting in our living room and drinking our gin. And as usual, Sunny D is right.
Toy Soldier looks at me, unsure of how to respond. Here’s the real story. But I opt to tell the shorter and more discreet version. “At a club.” Again, keeping it vague for the sake of keeping the peace.
Sunny D continues his interrogation and eventually learns that the only illicit behavior in Toy Soldier’s file is that he got discharged from the Army after being caught canoodling with another man. Of course, this little insight prompts a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discussion and gives Sunny D the chance to address the personal story in terms of political standpoints. But much to his surprise, Toy Soldier doesn’t share his activist agenda. This bothers him, I can tell.
After the heavy conversation, I go into my room to put on a belt and Sunny D follows me. I stand in front of my mirror and Sunny D stands right behind me looking over me at my reflection in the mirror as I finger my black leather belt along the loops of my pants. Sunny D slides his hands around my waist and grabs on to the ends of my belt. Using it like reins, he turns me around and pulls me closer until my hips bump into his. He then rams his upper body on me, pushing me up against the mirror. We start to make out. I’m totally caught off guard by his aggressive approach, very uncharacteristic of happy-go-lucky Sunny D. It’s a total turn on.
We exit my room after a few minutes and Toy Soldier has poured himself another drink. We must’ve looked flustered because he asks, “What the hell were you two doing in there?” in the same tone of voice Sunny D had used earlier to indicate suspicion.
“I was putting on my belt,” I answer. Vague is the name of the game. “Are you ready? We should go.”
At the subway stop, Sunny D dashes through the turnstile, but Toy Soldier needs to get a MetroCard. I wait with him as Sunny D watches impatiently on the other side. After he’s done, Toy Soldier walks over to me slowly and puts his arm around my lower back.
“You’re not fucking your roommate, are you?” he asks insinuating that I shouldn’t be.
“Is there a problem if I am?”
“Big, big problem cause I really want to kiss you right now.”
“Well, I’m not.” So we kiss.
I look over just in time to catch Sunny D roll his eyes, turn around and start walking over to the platform.
Even before we step into Eastern Bloc, our destination in the East Village, the tension between the two boys is explosively high, and I’m their Berlin Wall. In theory, it sounds awful. I should’ve been completely uncomfortable in this situation, making sure I was going out of my way to appease both sides. But in actuality, I was having a fantastic time. It was obvious that a tinge of jealously, mixed with alcohol, was running all throughout their bloodstreams, driving them to act more forceful in their pursuit over me. Toy Soldier and Sunny D seized every opportunity to catch my attention, display their affection and try to impress me so that they would be the one coming to bed with me that night.
The competition continues at the bar, where the testosterone overload encourages all of us to get as many drinks into our system as possible.
Toy Soldier and I start dancing next to each other except he’s so wasted that it looks more like just a series of abrupt hip twists. I find him adorable. Sunny D comes over to try to interrupt our primitive mating ritual. As he approaches, Toy Soldier flings his arm around knocking down Sunny D’s gin and tonic, spilling it all over the lower part of his white button-up shirt.
“Oh shit,” Toy Soldier says. “I’m so sorry!” Sunny D looks at me and all I can do is give my sympathy face. Toy Soldier can’t handle the awkward moment so he stumbles away to the restroom.
“I’m sorry,” I say once Sunny D gets closer. “He’s wasted,” is my justification for the transgression.
“Yeah, he could at least offer to buy me another drink,” Sunny D says wiping his shirt with a napkin. “If I knew we were hanging out with a gorilla tonight, I wouldn’t have worn my favorite shirt.”
“Hey! It was an accident.”
“So this is what you go for, eh? Guys like him? No wonder…” he says trying to make an issue out of Toy Soldier’s brusque ways.
“Excuse me!” I spit back. “Don’t act like, just because we’ve been living together for—what, two months?—that you’ve got me pegged and all figured out! It’s condescending!”
“He’s a dick!”
“Who’s a dick?” Toy Soldier comes back, just in time.
“Who do you think?” Sunny D is very aggravated, and yeah, it’s the liquor and the shirt, but there’s something else. Maybe the fact that I just called him out on some of his bullshit. Otherwise, I’m sure things wouldn’t have escalated to this degree.
“We should go,” I say trying to prevent the orange situation from turning bright red. “I’m leaving.”
“Wait, we’re leaving because of his fucking shirt?!” Toy Soldier shouts. “Fuck that! I was so excited to see you and we just got here. Let’s hang out.”
“You think he wants to hang out with you?!” Sunny D shouts back. “You think he wants to stay up all night listening to you? Oh yeah, because I bet you’re so interesting… to talk to! You know, on his phone you’re listed as ‘Toy Soldier.’ That’s what you are to him, something he can play with whenever you’re in town and then toss aside and forget about. And he just loves your whole Army story; he loves talking to all his friends about how he’s fucking a soldier! You don’t think he’s using you?! That’s what he does! It’s who he is!”
Before I can even fully digest this direct onslaught and with how little hesitation Sunny D brought out the firing squad, Toy Soldier loses it and lurches forward, grabbing Sunny D by his shirt and shaking him. He really shouldn’t have worn his favorite shirt. I try to intervene and separate the two parties, but I’m not sure how long my wall will last.
The bartender notices the commotion and steps from behind the bar to break it up and kick us out. After he lets go, Toy Soldier steps back a bit, looks at me and gives one final detonation, “So you’re really going home with this faggot?”
“I’m going home alone,” I respond and walk out the front door. I’m so drunk and upset, but I still manage to notice Sunny D trailing me a block away. We do live together, so our paths were bound to cross at some point. I stop, wait a few seconds for him get within hearing distance and turn around. Finally, it’s my turn to talk.
“So is that really what you think of me?” I ask as I begin to walk back towards him. “That I just use guys? They’re totally disposable to me? Is that what I thought of you?” The last question is particularly poignant because I’d recently expressed my feelings for him. He’s silent, so I continue. “What the hell was that all about? You have a boyfriend, remember?! So just… leave me alone and let me fuck whomever I want. Let me be the giant slut you think I am!” I drunkenly shout on Avenue A. For some reason, no one thinks it’s weird. “Oh… and by the way? Here,” I say getting closer to Sunny D, flipping my phone open and pulling up my contacts, “it’s Josh. He’s listed as Josh.” After making my final point in the list of things I made in my mind to bring up, I turn around and continue to power walk towards my apartment expecting silence the whole way back.
“I didn’t say you were a slut,” Sunny D says. I can barely hear his words even though he’s right behind me. I don’t stop or turn around, but I’m listening. “But don’t tell me that you actually see yourself with this guy. Doesn’t it just get tiring? All these one-night stands? I don’t want to see you keep hooking-up with all these random guys.”
“It’s just sex!” This time I do stop and turn around to look him directly in the eye.
“But you’re not looking for just sex.”
“How do you know what I’m looking for?”
“You told me.”
The next day, I wake up and go out to our kitchen to grab a glass of water in an effort to get rid of my hangover. I’m just wearing my boxers. It’s Sunday afternoon. Sunny D is sitting on the couch with the television on.
“Hey, I went to Blockbuster this morning. I got Amores Perros ’cause you said it was one of your favorite movies. I’ve never seen it,” he says, and like a puppy, he’s so cute when he shows he’s sorry.
“It’s really good,” I say after taking a drink. It would take a lot more than just that to make me forgive Sunny D for all the missiles he fired last night. But there’s always a place to start.