Bryant: Where are you?!? We already ordered appetizers..
Julian: Yeah right. You’re probably not even there yet.
Bryant: lol. I am here and I can’t start the party without you, bestie, so hurry up. R u coming alone?
Julian: uh, yeah. Walking up Collins. I’ll see you now.
Who would I be coming with? My asshole ex-boyfriend? God, it feels so weird to call him my ex – especially after last week.
Julian checked out his reflection on a car window before he reached the Shore Club. Taking advantage of the sub-seventy degree temperature, he wore a thin navy sweater over a white collared shirt, slate Rock and Republic Jeans and Ferragamo loafers.
Thank God I look fierce.
Julian spotted Bryant’s sister Evelyn and her boyfriend as soon as he got to Nobu.
He complimented her on the form-fitting little black dress that barely contained her recently enhanced breasts.
“Where the fuck’s your brother? He’s been texting me for the past hour.”
“Bryant? He made Alex buy him a drink at SkyBar while his guests arrived.”
“Oh my God, he would.”
“Hah.Yup. He told me to text him when everyone was here so he could make an entrance,” Evelyn added. “You come alone, Hon?”
“Yup,” Julian responded, forcing a smile. Thanks for pointing it out.
The night of Bryant’s birthday marked the fifth week that Julian and Amir, his boyfriend of three years – and the love of his life – had been broken up.
It had proven quite difficult for the pair to avoid each other since the split, though. They spent years replacing their individual friendships with mutual ones until all they had left were their two best friends – Bryant and Alex – who happened to be boyfriends.
He knew it wouldn’t be long before their social circle would force them together, but the idea of sitting down for dinner with Amir still terrified Julian. Not so much because he hated Amir, but because he hated how good it felt to have Amir sitting next to him. It was one thing to hear about him or check his Facebook for updates, but it was quite another to see his face and smell his masculine cologne.
Julian felt especially nervous about Bryant’s dinner because of what happened the weekend before. The fact that he hadn’t heard from Amir since their last rendezvous made seeing him at dinner that much more difficult.
Once everyone arrived and the table was set, Bryant made his big entrance. He wasn’t beautiful by conventional standards – he had a big nose, a small chin and blue eyes that were a bit large for his face – but Bryant walked with more swagger than any celebrity.
He greeted everyone like a bride making the rounds at a reception, then sat himself across from Julian.
Julian was beautiful by conventional standards. His dirty blonde hair fell just short of his almond eyes, his sloped nose and his square jaw. He had freckles where most people had blemishes and never seemed to gain a pound.
The quintessential pretty boy, Julian was teased by all the guys in high school. Except for Bryant of course, who explained to him that the boys were just jealous because he had better skin than their girlfriends.
Ten years later, they were just as close, celebrating Bryant’s twenty-fifth birthday in style.
There were several conversations going on at the table by the time they ordered appetizers. Julian overheard one of Evelyn’s friends comparing the passion of makeup sex with the nostalgia of breakup sex.
“Isn’t it the same thing?” Julian asked Bryant in a hushed tone. He was sure that it was a stupid question, but he needed clarification.
“Isn’t what the same thing?” Bryant asked, lowering his voice to match Julian’s.
“Makeup sex…breakup sex. What’s the dif?”
”Oh my God, are you dumb?” Bryant always wondered how his friend, the Ivy Leaguer of the group, could be so deficient in common sense.
“Seriously, though. Isn’t it the same thing? Sleeping with your ex?” Julian, suddenly self-conscious, brushed his golden bangs to the side and looked around to make sure no one was listening.
Sure enough, Bryant’s boyfriend – and Amir’s bestie – Alex, had been eavesdropping. He seemed more than happy to throw in his two cents.
“Um, yeah, only when you have makeup sex, he’s your boyfriend after. When you have breakup sex, he still hates you after,” he said, glancing at Amir.
Julian wanted to disappear when he heard Alex’s calculated words. He glanced at Amir and caught him rolling his eyes.
Oh my God, he heard. Kill me now.
Amir had obviously told Alex about the breakup sex they had on the beach last Saturday night.
Julian told the same story to Bryant: how Amir said he wanted to talk, but couldn’t resist grabbing Julian and taking him right there in the sand, not afraid of who might catch them. How their lips locked together while he ripped Julian’s clothes off, his huge arms wrapped so tightly around Julian’s back he could barely breathe. How they held each other in the sand after, neither one letting go.
It was the same story, only Julian called it makeup sex.
I’m such an idiot.
He took down about half of his Jack on the rocks to wash away the memory. He could not believe how naïve he had been the entire week, waiting for a phone call from somebody who apparently still hated him. He would probably need a couple more shots before he could even look at Amir again.
The waiter showed up with the Tuna Tatake before Julian’s mind could wander any further.
“The Lobster Ceviche will be out shortly.”
Bryant thanked him and ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon for the table, hoping his extravagant order would turn the attention away from Julian’s blunder.
“Dude, we’re gonna be wasted before the food gets here,” Amir said.
Part Middle Eastern, part Cuban, and six foot four, Amir looked more like a bodyguard for the table than a friend of Bryant’s – or Julian’s boyfriend, for that matter. He towered over Julian, but they made a hot couple; his rough exterior complimented Julian’s fine features.
And although Amir weighed twice as much as Julian, he had a much lower tolerance for alcohol. ‘That’s what you get for not going to college,’ Julian would tease.
Bryant certainly wasn’t going to let Amir rain on his parade.
“Oye Taliban, it’s not a celebration without champagne,” Bryant responded. Amir shook his head and laughed. It was going to be a long night.
“And I’ll have another Jack on the rocks, please,” Julian requested.
Amir shook his head again, but he did not find Julian’s drink order as amusing ad Bryant’s.
“Jack and champagne… classy,” he muttered under his breath.
“You shut the fuck up,” Julian snapped. His bitterness about the breakup sex was stronger than his social graces.
Evelyn and her boyfriend laughed nervously. They looked around to make sure there was no one within earshot of Julian’s dirty mouth. Luckily, the heavy layer of chatter in the packed restaurant made it difficult to hear anyone, let alone someone at another table.
There was dead silence following Julian’s little outburst. Amir drew a deep breath and clenched his jaw, focusing his eyes on the appetizer in front of him.
“Guys, can we try and keep it classy for one night… or at least until after dinner?” Alex requested.
In an attempt to salvage some of his class, Julian decided to express his frustrations to Bryant over BBM.
Julian: Why are we sitting in a table full of my enemies again?
Bryant: umm, because one of them is my boyfriend
Julian: hhhm. how bout I put you on match.com as a birthday gift??
Bryant: hah I’m good, thanks.
Julian: whatev. The offer still stands… I could have done without him and his dumb friend tonight, though.
Bryant: sorry. I didn’t know there was still drama. I was under the impression you guys were better after last weekend
Julian: so was I. but apparently your idiot boyfriend knows more than I do, so maybe I should have asked him…
Bryant: He is an idiot. Don’t listen to him. Let’s just get wasted and call it a night. It’s my birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Julian: I knoooow sorry. Okay. Less drama – more drinking.
“Will everyone be drinking champagne?” the waiter asked as he removed the wire around the cork.
As soon as everyone had their flutes, Evelyn toasted to her baby brother. The main course arrived shortly after that and Bry blew out his twenty-five candles.
After dinner, Bryant decided to take the party back to SkyBar to order another bottle of Dom from a poolside cabana. The cool breeze brought life to the palm trees, their fronds reflecting the silvery light of the full moon.
The romantic atmosphere led Julian directly to the bar. He had anticipated that this would be the most awkward part of the night. Sure enough, each couple snuggled up on the couch, leaving Julian and Amir to sit on opposite sides of the cabana, keeping their eyes on their Blackberry’s until the bottle arrived.
Bryant and Alex spent the first few minutes flirting and kissing the way that new couples do. Julian couldn’t help but envy them in their naiveté. It reminded him of when he and Amir first started dating. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other, he remembered as he glanced at his ex on the other couch.
Julian looked at his tan skin and perfectly groomed beard. It hurt that he still found him so beautiful. He remembered sitting in the steamy bathroom watching Amir meticulously shape his beard, using his fingers to create perfectly straight lines. He refused to believe he would never experience that again.
Nonetheless, Julian was sure that nothing good would come of remembering the good times. It would only make him resent Amir’s asshole behavior even more. But he could not control himself. Nor could he control his drinking, it seemed. He was holding a cup of ice while everyone else nursed their champagne.
Weary of mixing champagne with the Jack Daniels that was already in his bloodstream, Julian went back to the poolside bar. He was happy to get away from the group for a little while, but he kept an eye out for Amir. Their relationship might be over, but Julian was still very territorial over him.
Nothing made this more abundantly clear than the rage Julian felt as he caught Amir making room on the couch for Frankie Castro, Julian’s arch-nemesis since the second grade.
As children, Frankie and Julian couldn’t have been more different. Frankie was a cute kid who grew fatter in adulthood. Julian was an awkward adolescent who grew into his features. Frankie was trendy – Julian had style.
Frankie rented a studio in a seedy part of South Beach just to say he lived there. He leased a Mercedes C-class just so he could say he drove a Benz. He would skip a meal every day to have enough money to pay for bottle service at a club.
Julian was spoiled without realizing it. As his grandparents would say, ‘el nunca ha pasado hambre.’ But even though he had access to everything Frankie wanted, he never really cared for any of it.
Tonight, however, the tables had turned.
That son of a bitch.
Julian: What is fugly frankie doing in our cabana?
Bryant: Omg I know. I told Alex to make it go away.
Julian: And tell him to be quick about it too.
Refusing to share a cabana with him, Julian stood across the pool waiting for the Frankie to make his exit. He acted as if he was busy texting someone, unaware of Frankie’s existence, as he stood under one of the heaters that were scattered around the pool.
Much to Julian’s horror, Frankie did not leave alone. Amir made every effort not to look in Julian’s direction, while Frankie turned and raised his cocktail glass, toasting to his small victory.
Desperate to look nonchalant, Julian forced a smile and raised his glass to his nemesis. He knew how much Frankie and Amir hated fake bitches, so a fake bitch he had to become. It was the only way to get back at them. Thankfully, Julian had spent enough of his life in Miami to have mastered the art of being a fake ass bitch.
As soon as they were out of sight, Julian dropped the act and stormed into the cabana.
“Where the fuck do they think they’re going?” he asked. There was no need to be fake in front of Bryant and company.
“What the hell do you care?” Alex asked.
Bryant, who had gotten up to serve himself a drink, shot Alex an icy stare.
Alex seemed offended. “Oh I’m sorry, am I supposed to be on team Julian now that Amir left?”
“Oh, no. I would never think of making you leave team dipshit. They’d miss you too much,” Julian responded.
“Now, now, place nice boys,” said Evelyn, making room for Julian on her couch. Her maternal instinct kicked in once she saw the desperation in Julian’s eyes. “Come here, Baby. Tell mama where it hurts.”
Julian sat next to her and placed his head on her left breast. He was surprised at how soft it felt under his head. He had always heard that implants were harder than natural boobs.
“Don’t get jealous, Carlos,” he said to Evelyn’s boyfriend as he felt her up.
Carlos laughed. “Don’t worry, man.”
“Carlos isn’t the one with a jealousy problem,” Alex said, glancing at Julian.
Evelyn injected herself in the conversation before Julian could react.
“Don’t hate, Alex. You know you’re just mad that you can’t lay your head on this rack.”
Alex rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Bryant.
The group spent the rest of the night talking amongst themselves (except for Bryant and Alex, who were making out again). This gave Julian the chance to catch up with Evelyn.
They had fallen out of touch since things had gotten serious with their last boyfriends and catching up was a welcomed distraction for Julian. It kept his mind off of Amir and his little rebound.
But even though he wasn’t thinking about Amir, Julian felt his absence. There was a comfort in Amir’s presence that never went away when they broke up – like something in his gut was telling him they belonged together. Their time apart only intensified the feeling.
Julian chatted it up for a little while, but his curiosity consumed him. He hated not knowing where Amir was, but he didn’t want to look like he cared (not in front of Alex, at least). He took advantage of the fact that Bryant was serving himself the last bit of champagne to get some information.
“Are we going out from here, or are you and this idiot gonna call it a night?”
Bryant laughed. “Are you crazy? I am not drunk enough to be a quarter century old!”
“Right. Well where do you wanna go?”
“We’re gonna meet up with Amir and Frankie at Score. What are you gonna do?” Alex interjected.
Julian was stunned to hear Alex refer to them as ‘Amir and Frankie.’ He had always thought Amir was just talking to Frankie to make him jealous.
Could they actually like each other? Or does he just want to hurt me that bad? And why the fuck weren’t they together last Saturday night? I wonder if Frankie knows what Amir was doing that night…
“He’s coming with us, Alex. And stop being such a douche. It’s my birthday. The only one that can be a douche tonight is me!”
Before making the rounds at Score, Jules bought Bryant a birthday shot. Hoping to lose consciousness before seeing Amir with Frankie, he made his a double.
As he made his way through the sticky crowd, Julian began to lose feeling in his face.
Thank God, he thought as his body adjusted to the damp, smoky air. He would normally pass on places like Score, but there was no way he was going to give Amir the green light with Frankie tonight.
“Oh God,” Bryant said to Julian as soon as he realized where Alex was leading them.
“What?” Julian hadn’t been paying attention to where they were headed. He was too busy combing the dance floor with his eyes, hoping to find a dance partner that Amir would hate.
“Umm,” Bryant pointed at a table littered with Frankie’s friends, all sporting Ed Hardy t-shirts, chinstrap beards and zirconia studs.
Naturally, Frankie was dancing on the table with a big smile on his face. Amir was standing against the wall behind the group with his arms crossed.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Julian told Bryant as Alex greeted friends and acquaintances.
“Hey me,” Bryant said. He didn’t even bother telling Alex where they were going.
There was a line for the men’s bathroom, so Bryant led Jules to the cleaner and less populated ladies room on the other side.
“I need another drink,” Julian said while he stared into the mirror. He remembered looking so much better before leaving his house. Hhm.
“Hon, you don’t have to stay here with these pussies on account of me,” Bryant said from the stall. “In fact, I’d probably leave with you if you wanted to go.”
“Oh, but you swear that I’m gonna let them win.”
“Okay, then I’m pretty sure we’re gonna need another drink.”
Julian made his way back to Frankie’s table with a renewed sense of confidence. His buzz was back and he intended to keep it for the rest of the night.
“Hey sexy,” Frankie said, oozing sarcasm.
Julian found the idea of touching Frankie vomit inducing, but he was willing to do anything to get under his skin. Without saying a word, he gave Frankie a big hug and wet kiss on the cheek.
Surprised by Julian’s display, Frankie looked at Amir, who was shaking his head in disapproval. His reaction helped Frank figure out Julian’s little game. After Julian’s display of affection, Frankie put his arm around him and walked him over to the refreshments.
“We’re almost out of Goose, but there’s a waitress coming around. I can call her over if you want,” Frankie said.
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Julian said. While Frank’s boozehound friends shot him dirty looks, he dumped the rest of the Grey Goose into a glass. “Cheers,” he said before taking his drink down in one shot. He handed Frankie the empty glass and gave him a pat in the ass.
It was fun to mess with Frankie, but Julian couldn’t stand to be around him for too long. He wasn’t sure if fugly was contagious and he didn’t want to take any chances. Plus, he still needed to get back at Amir for bringing Frank into the mix in the first place.
Julian moved to the dance floor just within view of Frankie’s table. He had always found it difficult to dance to the house music they played at gay clubs, so he just kind of bobbed his head and bounced around, as flirty as possible.
After a few minutes, he noticed one of the club’s strippers smiling at him. The stocky dancer made his way over to Julian, who looked drunk enough to tip generously.
Julian’s initial reaction was to laugh at the guy’s hairless body and Asian-inspired body art, then pawn him off to someone else. Dancing with a man in a thong was against his better judgment, but he knew how much Amir hated strippers, so he humored the guy.
Halfway through the song, the dancer whispered something in Julian’s ear, but the music was too loud. Then the guy grabbed him and rubbed his package all over him, which was probably supposed to turn him on, but Julian began to feel his drinks swish around in his stomach.
It felt like he was dancing upside down. Suddenly, the guy grabbed Julian’s arm to take him somewhere, probably for a lap dance. Julian snatched him arm away. He wanted to run to the nearest bathroom, but he couldn’t keep his balance. He fell forward onto the dancer, who begrudgingly pushed him back, knocking Julian flat on his ass.
Before Julian could pick himself up off the ground, someone punched the angry stripper square in the face, dropping him to the floor. Julian was too disoriented to make out who his defender was. Before he could get a good look, the guy grabbed Julian slung him over his shoulder. The last thing he saw was the stripper on the floor screaming obscenities while holding his bloody nose.
Julian was just sober enough to be completely embarrassed, but still drunk enough to feel like he was about to vomit on the guy who was escorting him out of the club.
Julian had assumed he was being removed by security until he found himself being carried down Lincoln Road on the man’s shoulder.
Then his pepper-infused citrus scent registered.
“Let go of me, Motherfucker!” Julian demanded, but to no avail. Amir ignored him and continued to walk down the street with Julian slung over his shoulder.
Nauseated, Julian persisted. “You’re embarrassing me you idiot!”
”You’re embarrassing yourself.”
“I’m gonna vomit, Asshole!”
As much as he hated Amir at that moment, he would die before vomiting on him.
As soon as they got to the car, Amir opened the trunk of Julian’s Range Rover and seated him on the bumper facing the parking lot.
Julian heaved as soon as Amir stepped aside. He felt like someone stuck a vacuum in his mouth to suck out his bowels. It took two or three eruptions to empty his stomach, after which he would just gag and spit. Once he stopped gagging, he curled up in fetal position and sobbed in his trunk.
Julian always cried after vomiting, but this time the tears went beyond humiliation or disgust.
Why am I the one in the trunk of my car feeling like shit? Why am I always the one who feels like shit? What the fuck am I doing?
Amir knew that the weeping meant no more heaving, so he closed the back and drove Julian home.
The sun had filled his room with bright heat when Julian opened his eyes in the morning. He attempted to roll out of bed, but his stomach quickly reminded him how much he drank the night before. So he lay in bed with a pillow over his face until Lucy, his sandy lab, started begging to go downstairs.
Foggy memories of the night before crept into Julian’s consciousness as he made his way to the bathroom in his vomit-stained jeans. The smell of cigarette and street emanating from them made him want to hurl, but he knew that if he started now, he would spend the rest of the day on the bathroom floor and he didn’t want the horrible time he had the night before to spill into another day.
He took down some Excedrin and Gatorade, then opened the kitchen drawer to find Luce’s leash missing. He scanned the counter, opened a few drawers and no leash. When he turned around to go look in the living room, he saw it dangling from one of the bar stools under the pub table.
Julian knew he couldn’t possibly have taken the dog out in his drunkenness and he was too obsessive compulsive to have left the leash there the day before, which could only mean one thing.
He grabbed his Blackberry and dialed the number he had erased from his phonebook the five weeks earlier.
“Thanks for taking Lucy out,” Julian said instead of hello.
”She shouldn’t have to suffer because her owner’s a drunk,” Amir responded.
“What the fuck’s your problem? I was trying to be nice.”
“If you wanna be nice, get your ass over here and pick up your car. I have plans
“And how the fuck am I supposed to get there with no car?”
“Call a cab.”
Julian wanted to call him a piece of shit for making him take a cab across town, but he ended the call instead. His head hurt too much to argue.
One forty dollar cab ride later, Julian was knocking on the front door of Amir’s townhouse. Julian felt like he was about to toss his cookies when he walked in. It felt like he was on a roller coaster trying to hold down a stomach full of junk food.
Julian was surprised to find the furniture downstairs covered in plastic and moved to the right side of the room, which was now painted white. Amir went back to painting without acknowledging him.
“They’re on the kitchen counter.”
“Huh?” The curiosity about the white walls made Julian forget why he was there.
The only logical reason for Amir to be painting the walls white was because he was moving out.
But where? Why wouldn’t he have told anyone last night? There were no comments on his Facebook about this.
“What are you doing?”
As usual, Amir was not in the mood to chat. He showed Julian his paint roller.
“Painting,” he said for clarification.
“Because the walls were white when I moved in.”
Talking to him was like pulling teeth, but it was clear that Amir wanted Julian to know what was going on. He easily could have left the keys in the mailbox and avoided this line of questioning.
“Where are you going?”
“What do you care?” Amir snapped.
“What? Moving in with Frankie?” Julian couldn’t resist. He also couldn’t think of any other reason for Amir to be moving. He didn’t have family or a career and he had been spending most of his time with Frankie, so it really wasn’t too far fetched.
“Bro, you’re fucking obsessed.”
“I’m obsessed with Frankie? That’s funny coming from the person who has gone out with him every weekend since we broke up. Oh, except for last weekend, of course.”
Amir clenched his jaw and started to paint again, turning his back on Julian.
“And it’s so obvious you’re only with him to make me jealous, by the way.”
“I don’t have to do anything to make you jealous. You do that all by yourself.”
“Oh okay, so it’s just a coincidence that you started fraternizing with one of my enemies right after we broke up?”
Amir threw the paint roller into the tray and turned to Julian.
“This is exactly why I can’t fucking stand you. It’s always about you… your friends, your enemies, your frenemies… If you’d step out of your perfect little world for a fucking second you might–”
“I might what, Amir? I might meet someone like you? Look where that got me,” Julian interrupted.
Amir shook his head and turned his attention back to his work.
“You know what? Just get the fuck out. I don’t have to do this with you.”
“And what if I don’t feel like getting the fuck out?”
“Don’t be an idiot, Julian,” he barked.
“Oh, it’s too late for that,” Julian said as he took a seat on the plastic covered couch. He felt like an idiot, but his desire for closure was stronger than his pride.
Amir slammed the paint roller into the tray of paint.
“What? Are gonna hit me like you hit that stripper last night?”
“Don’t act like you don’t love it when I get into fucking fights for you, okay?
“I don’t.” Julian lied.
Amir laughed. “Alright Bro. Next time I’ll let you slobber all over the motherfucker and let him drive your drunk ass home.”
“It’s none of your fucking business who I slobber on or how I get home. You don’t give a shit about me, so why pretend to care?”
”I don’t wanna talk about this right now.”
“I know. You never wanna talk about anything. You just wanna call me when you wanna get laid and –“
“That was a mistake…”
Julian’s heart sank deep into his bowels when he heard those words. It hurt almost as much as when Amir told him he wasn’t in love with him.
The idea that Amir could have been acting on impulse that night on the beach mortified Julian. But then he remembered the passion as Amir took him in his arms on the beach that night and refused to believe he was motivated by anything other than love.
“Let me guess: you’re sorry.”
Amir furrowed his brow.
His gesture infuriated Julian.
“You know what? I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m sorry that I ever loved you. I’m sorry I fought my parents to be with you, sorry I lost so many friends because of you, sorry I put my career on hold for you…”
“I didn’t ask you to do any of that.”
“No, but you didn’t stop me, did you? You fucking ingrate.”
Amir walked toward the back door and stared out the window.
As hard as it was, Julian contained his rage. He wanted to tell Amir how much he hated him, but he held back. He knew that the anger would fade and he would realize it wasn’t true.
The white walls reminded Julian that this would probably be the last chance he would get to tell Amir how he really felt.
“Look, I can’t stop hating you if I still love you. And I know you said you didn’t love me, but I don’t believe you…” Julian looked for a reaction, but got nothing. He was humiliated.
Though he didn’t regret saying it, he knew that Amir had already made his decision. There was no point in fighting him, regardless of whether or not he believed him.
“You know what? If you don’t wanna love me, that’s fine,” Julian said, grabbing his keys off the counter. “I may have lost all my pride, but I haven’t lost my fucking dignity. I’m not gonna sit here and beg you to love me. I deserve better than this shit. So finish painting your walls, pack up all your shit and stay the fuck away from me.”
Julian made his way to the front door and turned to Amir before walking out.
“I’d wish you the best, but you just lost the best thing that ever happened to you. And honestly, I hope it hurts.”
With that, Julian walked out and slammed the door behind him.
The second he got into his car, the nausea was back. He tried to get to the expressway without pulling over, but only made it to the gas station around the corner.
He made a beeline for the bathroom and erupted as soon as he got into the stall. Thankfully, the toilet was not completely disgusting – before he vomited, at least. Once the Gatorade was out of his system, he flushed it away and went back to the car. Then came the tears…
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