Editors Zach Stafford and Nico Lang have assembled essays from LGBT icon Buck Angel, Noah Michelson (HuffPost Gay Voices editor), Ryan Fitzgibbon (Hello Mr. magazine founder), Jaime Woo (Meeting Grindr author), Joseph Erbentraut, R.J. Aguiar, Shawn Binder, myself and many others.
The book is available now. Proceeds will go directly to the Lambda Literary Foundation. Below read an excerpt from my essay, “Couple Undercover.”
From the foyer of the conference organizer’s West Village townhouse, I could see two chandeliers and listen to the crackling of a gentle fireplace. Men in suits paced around, mingling while balancing bubbly champagne glasses filled halfway to the rim. Across the hall, I ran into the Columbia student who had originally told me about the conference.
“You made it!” He gave me a hug, and I could smell the whiskey.
“I did,” I smiled.
“Isn’t it grand? I can see myself finding a hookup here.”
“Oh, are there a lot of single guys here?” I sounded way too enthused.
“No, I meant, internship offers. But if you’re interested I hear some guys are playing strip poker upstairs.”
“No,” Columbia laughed grossly. “Fire Island is that way!” He snapped his finger to my left.
“Actually, it’s behind you.” I excused myself to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of Dom. I strolled into the piano room where an unknown pianist played a harmless melody in the background. There I overheard the guy from Yale discussing the economy with two other students. He seemed to think that the decibel level of his voice somehow played into the effectiveness of his argument.
“You’re from Europe,” he said as soon as I got near. “How do you think we should fix the economy?”
“I’m Mexican,” my words came out like buzz kill.
“Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t look Mexican.”
I squinted my eyes, offended.
“Please, I don’t subscribe to identity politics, we all know that,” he motioned towards his two compatriots who nodded briefly and looked back towards me for my response.
“To answer your question, about Europe,” I reverted for I did have an opinion on the matter, “we have to recognize the limits of capitalism.”
“Not this crap again!” Yale interrupted.
“He’s right,” your soothing voice trailed in from behind me. “We were too optimistic about the Euro,” you said.
“Yeah, but blaming capitalism? How passé,” Yale blurted. “People need incentives.”
“In the form of million dollar bonuses?” You asked.
“Whatever,” Yale said, not to me, but to his friend, as they both began to walk away. But then Yale, desperate to have the final world, stopped and turned back at us. “I’d just be careful about your dissidence. Your drink was probably paid for by a bonus.”
We didn’t respond back. I was just excited to be in your company.
“Thanks so much for that,” I smiled at you. “I felt like I walked right into the lion’s den.”
“Don’t worry about it,” you said. “They’re harmless. And you had a point. As socialist as it might have been.”
“There’s nothing wrong with socialism,” I defended myself.
“You are too trusting.”
“Where do you go to school?” You asked. It was the first time at the conference anyone had taken an interest in anything beyond themselves.
“I’m living in the city this summer, but I go to school in Chicago.”
“University of Chicago? That’s a great school.”
“That’s an even better school,” you smiled and kept your mouth open so that you could quickly steal a sip from my drink.
“You know there is an entire bar next to the kitchen,” I said.
“I just wanted to know what you were drinking,” you said and flashed a twinkled smile.
“You could just ask.”
You then told me your name and that you were about to start your senior year at Princeton.
You had absolutely zero interest in becoming an investment banker, but your father, a principal at McKinsey, forced you to come.
“I want to work for a non-profit,” you continued.
I looked at you in silence, almost in awe, realizing how I never considered that a selfless heart should also be a must-have in a mate. Before you could notice my idolizing stare, your phone vibrated.
“Listen, my dealer’s downstairs, would you like to find a room upstairs and smoke a joint with me?” And just like that, I found myself smoking pot with a nice, down-to-earth Princeton boy whose dreams of helping the world outweighed the desire to stuff his wallet. We snuck upstairs and found an empty bedroom with a large window leading out to the fire escape. I turned on the desk lamp and took my coat off. You took off your, and we both tossed them neatly on the bed. Together, we huddled on the ledge by the open window and lit your poorly rolled joint. As I took a hit, I envisioned my future life with this trophy of a man.
“Why are you looking at me that way?” You asked, suddenly self-aware, taking the joint from my sticky fingers.
“Because you’re gorgeous,” I said. Your head dropped with grace, and I could tell you were blushing. I placed my hand on your shoulder and leaned in, eyes closed, lips perched, desiring to kiss you. But I never reached your mouth. I opened my eyes and instead saw how you had retracted away from me, your hand clutching onto my forearm, barricading me from moving in any further.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked, confused, unsure of what to do with this great sudden need to be close to you.
“I’m sorry,” you sprung up from the ledge and began to pace frantically around the empty room. “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. It’s not at all what you think.”
“I don’t know what to think.”
I shrugged, “I’m a socialist.”