I never answer calls from unknown numbers. I have a compulsive habit of rushing to the nearest computer as soon as my phone vibrates with an alien request and Googling the area code to get an idea of where in the world the call is coming from. Generally, my geo-search yields solid clues as to the mystery caller.
“Who the hell is calling me from the East Bay?” I say this time waiting for a voicemail that will reveal the identity on the other line.
After his weeklong birthday celebration and our two-time rendezvous, Potential Player flew away on vacation (oh, they joys of being funemployed) leaving me alone and with the impression that he was interested in a one-on-one match upon his return.
What the Player also left was my number with his friend: the tall, hunky blond.
In the voicemail that followed the call from the East Bay number, the friend reminds me of the night we met, one of the nights I spent with the Player. He asks me about my plans for the night. He’s on the Bay Bridge, making his way to the city.
I haven’t gone out in a couple of days, and since most of my friends have full-time jobs, I rarely get to go out on weekdays, by far the most exciting nights to party in a big city. And being quite fresh to San Francisco, I can count the number of gay friends in one hand. So I’m tempted to take this boy up on what sounded like a purely platonic offer for drinks.
Twenty minutes later, and he’s rolling down in his silver Mustang, parking behind the Castro Theatre. I meet up with him and together we walk on over to Toad Hall, an unpretentious lounge with phenomenal drink specials.
He adds character to his corn-fed frame, easygoing smile and baby blue eyes with a faux haw and an eyebrow piercing. He’s like a Ken doll after breaking free from military school. An All-American reject with a tough exterior but deep down, a totally huggable kind of brat.
Our first round of drinks and our conversation is flowing. Even though we had barely spoken the first time we met, it’s easy for me to talk to All-American Reject, joke around with him even, maybe because there’s no pressure coming from either side.
I’d already filed AAR in my friend cabinet, and I make sure to lock him in there as soon as I recognize the pattern on his black shirt: Ed Hardy. That Christian Audigier bastard child of a brand, the Wal-Mart of gaudy couture, now associated with delusions of D-list celebrity status and obnoxious, beer belly, baby daddy, garage glamour.
On an acquaintance, Ed Hardy is negligible. But AAR could never rearrange himself as anything more than friend of a friend, not with that wardrobe anyway.
Getting drunk with him is still acceptable.
As the night progresses, we decide to bounce from the barely crowded Toad Hall to the smaller space of QBar. Just around the block, QBar, the closest the Castro gets to ‘hood, is full-on body heat and hip-hop.
I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that the bar is about the size of an attic and the concept of maximum capacity is meaningless, or with the fact that we’re on our fourth round of drinks, but I start to feel AAR closing in on my physical space, the drink in my hand bumping against his hard chest every time I make a move on the dance floor. There’s nothing wrong with casual flirting and grinding with a friend of a friend, so I don’t make it an issue, but AAR’s intentions are obvious.
Weary that our interactions might get too hot to handle, I suggest we take a break and go outside to catch my breath… and smoke a cigarette. As soon as we step away from the loud music blasting inside, AAR brings up a topic I did not expect to discuss.
“So are you still talking to that Potential Player?” he asks, and I can see in his baby blue eyes that he’s curious to hear my response.
“I haven’t talked to him in a while,” I say disguising my recent fascination with his friend.
“That kid is so wild. I met him at my friend’s apartment one morning. He was just wrapped in a towel. My friend told me later that they had just finished fooling
around when I walked in and that he was the best sex he’s ever had.”
I don’t say a word. And it takes all my strength not to show how manipulated I feel. AAR continues telling his story, even though my silence should have been taken as an indication for him to stop.
“I met him the day before I met you. We are not really close friends or anything, but I’ve heard lots of crazy stories. He was really upset on his birthday because he was seeing this guy in Santa Cruz who totally blew him off and bailed on his party last minute.”
And just like that, my image of Potential Player shatters. If AAR met him the night before he met me, it means that in between both nights the Player and I spent together, the Player had the best sex of his life… with someone else. And his weeklong birthday sex game was just a spiteful attempt at getting back at yet another lover. Not exactly the definition of playing fair.
The Player, as it turns out, is not a gentleman but a cheat. And his charm, his boy-like innocence, is nothing more than an act so that, in the end, he can walk away with the biggest prize: an unbroken heart.
We walk back into the bar, and because I feel like I have nothing else to lose, I do what I’ve wanted to since about drink number two. I don’t worry about keeping my distance, I forget about the Ed Hardy galore. I grab on to AAR’s neck and bring him in as close as I can. We start making out amidst the
crowd, and I don’t care that it’s all on display.
Because I am done being toyed around with, when I know all too well how to play.