Tag Archives: queer fiction

Anything But Beautiful

Anything But Beautiful Short Story (photo: Jazmin Quaynor)

Anything But Beautiful Short Story (photo: Jazmin Quaynor)

“You’re beautiful,” Andy says to Charlie as they exit Starbucks on a crisp fall afternoon. They are enjoying their first cups of hot coffee after a long, hot summer in Coral Gables, Florida.

Charlie looks at Andy with a confused grin. They have been dating for a few weeks, Charlie has grown accustomed to Andy’s terms of endearment, but the word beautiful makes him uncomfortable. “Oh please,” he responds in a skeptical tone.

“What? You don’t agree with me?” Andy seems confused as they round the busy corner of Ponce de Leon Boulevard toward Charlie’s apartment.

Charlie looks at his reflection in the window of a stationery store they walk past. His short brown hair is unruly without the product he usually works into it. His glasses are held together by a paperclip and a five o’clock shadow covers his face. He feels anything but beautiful this afternoon.

“Not today I don’t,” Charlie responds. He takes a sip of his latte and self-consciously wipes his mouth. He doesn’t want a little dissident whip to further illustrate his point to Andy.

“Why not? I mean, I know you don’t think you’re ugly. You spend way too much time looking at your own reflection to think you’re ugly.”

Charlie blushes bashfully, then covers his face with his free hand. All this time, he thought he was being slick when he would catch a glimpse of himself in a car window or elevator mirror. He can’t help but laugh.

Andy gives Charlie a pinch on his side, playfully reassuring him that he’s only teasing. They are still in the honeymoon phase of their budding relationship, so he finds Charlie’s embarrassment adorable.

“Busted,” Charlie says as the pair crosses the street toward his building. He tries to think of a way to explain to Andy that doesn’t think of himself as ugly, just not exactly beautiful.

While Charlie seems off in deep thought, Andy runs his eyes over his new love’s warm chocolate eyes down to his full lips and prickly jaw. His impulse is to push him against a street light and give him a kiss, but he wants an answer to his question first.

“So, why won’t you accept my compliment?”

The answer seems obvious to Charlie. “Because I look like shit today!” he says.

Andy smiles. “I didn’t say you look beautiful. I said you are beautiful.”

Hearing those words come out of Andy’s mouth makes Charlie feel buoyant. He remembers the nights he went to bed thinking about Andy before they started dating, wondering if his feelings would ever be reciprocated. He had never felt this way about a guy before. It tickles every time he inhales and he feels an overwhelming inclination to kiss Andy, who has also turned a little red in the cheeks.

Andy has made himself feel shy and tongue-tied with his last comment. He doesn’t mean to come on so strongly. He just can’t help himself. Charlie’s beauty is so apparent to him that he refuses to let anyone challenge that – even Charlie himself.

“If you say so,” Charlie says. He leans over and gives Andy a kiss on the cheek.

Overwhelmed with desire but aware of his surroundings, Andy grabs Charlie’s hand, gives it a kiss and doesn’t let it go until they reach the Spanish colonial style building Charlie lives in. He knows that public displays of affection make Charlie uncomfortable – especially in a conservative area like Coral Gables, but he doesn’t care anymore. He has waited a long time hold someone’s hand like this and he refuses to let anything – or anyone – stop him from falling in love.

back to Short Fiction

Breakup Sex on the Beach Short Story (photo: Quino Al)

Breakup Sex on the Beach

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 retarded?” 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.”

“Correct.”

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.

Eww.

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.

Huh?

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!”

“Vomit.”

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

this afternoon.”

“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.

“Your keys.”

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.  

“Why?”

“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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Mendiola Delivers Another Platinum Bomb

Part 1

“How do you think the release of this video will affect the sales of your upcoming album?”

“I haven’t given it much thought, really. I leave sales up to management and the label,” Derek responds with ease.

It’s a sunny spring afternoon in Miami Beach when Derek Mendiola, the gay Marine whose career exploded in 2005 after he won a nationally televised singing contest, sits down for press interviews on the terrace of the Tides Hotel overlooking Ocean Drive. With his third studio album to be released within a week, he has done nothing but press during his short visit back to his hometown.

“I see. And when was the footage taken?” Mr. Guilfoyle probes.

“How is that relevant to this interview?”

Craig Guilfoyle, staff writer for X Weekly, ignores Derek’s objection to his line of questioning. It has been less than a month since a sex tape featuring Derek and a former boyfriend leaked and the singer has yet to comment publicly about it.

“Were you aware that you were being filmed?”

“Look, my job is to sell my record, not your magazine, so feel free to write whatever you want about anything else.”

Guilfoyle smirks. “It’s funny you mention record sales because there are some who say that you leaked the video yourself to make up for the poor performance of your first single. Would you like to address that instead?”

Derek’s mouth is shut, his jaw popping with agitation. He looks away from the table where they are sitting toward the tourists walking down Ocean Drive. The sun could not be any brighter, the air thicker. Derek wishes he could enjoy being back home. He turns back to Guilfoyle, who is waiting for an answer.

“Wow, so someone leaks a five minute video of me taking it up the ass and suddenly civility goes out the window?”

“Are you saying you had nothing to do with the release?” Guilfoyle asks.

This is the final interview Derek has scheduled for the day. He considers stonewalling until their time is up, but decides to ignore the advice of his publicist and engage.

“When’s the last time you had sex, Mr. Guilfoyle?” Derek asks.

Guilfoyle rolls his eyes. “Mr. Mendiola, if you don’t want to address the sex tape that’s fine, but you have to understand that it’s my job to ask these questions. I’m giving you the opportunity to set the record straight here.”

Derek looks at Guilfoyle in disbelief. “Sorry, but it’s not my job to tell you what you wanna hear.”

Guilfoyle laughs. “Do you really think I flew here from LA to jot down some talking points from your publicist about your record?”

Derek looks away for a few seconds then turns back to Guilfoyle, who is sitting quietly across the table waiting for a response. “I’ll tell you what. If you wanna capitalize off my exploits, you have to give me what I want first.”

“I don’t have to give you anything.”

“No, you don’t, but I have something you want. So, we can either sit here in silence until our time is up or you can play along.”

Guilfoyle looks at Derek with consternation. He is tempted to get up and leave, but he can’t go back to LA without an exclusive. “What do you want?”

Derek laughs in satisfaction. “I want you to suck my dick.”

Guilfoyle blanches.

Derek erupts into laughter. “Relax, Bro. I’m only kidding.”

“Well what the fuck do you want, then?”

“I want you to answer all of the questions I ask you. I will match every one of your answers with an answer of my own.”

Guilfoyle looks at him for a few seconds. A smirk slithers onto his face. “Okay, but I ask the first question.”

Derek reaches over the table and shakes Guilfoyle’s hand. “Shoot.”

“Did you leak your own sex tape for publicity?”

“No, I did not,” Derek says, matter-of-factly. “My turn.”

Guilfoyle begins to think he may have gotten the shorter end of the stick. “Go ahead.”

“Well, I’m assuming that you’ve seen the video in its entirety – you know, for research – and I’m curious about what you thought of my performance.”

Guilfoyle shakes his head the way a parent would when their teenager acts up. “I think you looked desperate.”

Derek laughs. “That’s not a review of my performance, Mr. Critic.”

“I agreed to give you an answer and I did. Now it’s my turn,” Guilfoyle responds.

“Dale.”

“Were you aware that you were being filmed?”

“Yup,” Derek offers. “Have you ever had sex with another man?”

“Oh come on.”

“That’s not an answer, my friend.”

Guilfoyle is ready to wrap up. Derek’s admission is good enough to make his editor happy, but now he feels personally violated. “No, I haven’t. Now, how does it feel to be more famous for a tape of you being sodomized than for all of the mediocre songs you’ve recorded over the past few years?”

Derek is taken aback by the aggressive turn Guilfoyle has taken, but he doesn’t let on. He giggles, rubs the inside of his thigh, and looks up at his adversary. His initial inclination is to dodge the question with a sarcastic response, but he decides to play along instead. “Honestly, I mourn for the people that value voyeurism over art. More so, though, I loathe the people who perpetuate this false paradigm by sensationalizing things like celebrity sex tapes while ignoring matters of social importance.” Derek pauses. As much as it pains him, he decides that he will give Guilfoyle the true story just to get it off his chest. “I made that video with my boyfriend of five years the weekend before I left for my first tour in Iraq. I wanted him to have it while I was gone since we would have to spend the next year hiding our relationship from the military.” Derek wants to leave it at that, but he realizes that he has not addressed the leak. “We broke up a few months ago and I didn’t even remember that tape existed until I got a call from my manager about it a few weeks ago.”

Guilfoyle sits across the table without reacting. He knows celebrities to feign sincerity in interviews for their own purposes and can’t help but remain skeptical.

Derek is ripping a white cocktail napkin and staring at the pieces of paper piling up next to his sweaty glass of lemon water. “I’m sure the truth will put your readers to sleep, so feel free to print whatever you want. Call me a nympho, call me shameless or out of control, whatever sells… I really don’t care.”

The lack of eye contact lets Guilfoyle know that he has gotten all that he will get out of Derek. “I think I have all I need here. Don’t forget to check out next week’s issue of X.”

“I don’t read X,” Derek says. He walks down the front steps of the art deco hotel without acknowledging Guilfoyle again.

Crossing the street toward Lummus Park, he takes off his shirt, revealing his tan torso. He has a USMC tattoo on his vascular arm, a six pack and a platinum crucifix hanging around his neck. Within seconds, he is lost in the flashes of cameras and crowds of tourists.

Part 2

A few days later, Derek is back in Los Angeles rehearsing for the countless performances he would give on most of the major networks when his publicist, Geraldine Micheals, calls.

“I’m gonna take five,” he says, and steps outside to take the call.

“Great news, D. You look fabulous on the cover of X this week. I just picked it up on my way to the office. Those abs… Hot!”
Derek wonders what angle Guilfoyle decided to take with the cover story. “What about the review?” he asks.

“Right, right. Before we talk about that let me ask you a question: what exactly did you say to Guilfoyle during the interview?”

Derek freezes like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Why?”

“Well, he doesn’t seem to like you very much, so I’m gonna assume you didn’t stick to the talking points I sent you earlier that day.”

“The guy wouldn’t shut the fuck up about the tape.”

“Oh God, please don’t tell me you hit him, Derek. I’m running out of excuses for you here. I mean, we love publicity, but you can’t be portrayed as violent anymore. The public will turn on you and move onto a less aggressive bad boy. We discussed this last time, remember?”

“I didn’t hit him.”

“Well you must have done something to set this guy off. He did everything but post a picture of himself taking a shit on your CD. I mean, it’s not like anyone is gonna actually read the review, thanks to the photo spread, but Jeez. He went for the jugular.”

“Well, I don’t care what that low life thinks about me,” Derek says. He hears another phone ring on Geraldine’s end.

“That’s good, Honey. I’ll let you get back to rehearsals, then. I have New York on the other line. Ciao, Caio!”

“Bye.” Derek walks over to the black SUV he came in and pulls his laptop out of a gym bag to check out X online. He knows that he could have handled the interview better, but he had hoped that his sincerity would show the guy that he was a normal person just like everyone else.

Part 3

Mendiola Delivers Another Platinum Bomb
*
Review by Craig Guilfoyle

It comes as no surprise to most that the release of Derek Mendiola’s latest musical endeavor Shut the F**k up and Listen coincides with the leak of another, less artistic, Mendiola release. I was asked to sit down with the star to discuss the new album in Miami.

Unfortunately, it seems that Mendiola was not as interested in discussing the record as he was his sexual exploits. And after hearing the record, which Z Entertainment made sure did not leak prior to its release date, I understood why.

This album follows the same formula for pop mediocrity as Mendiola’s previous lackluster attempts: a single with beats from the latest ‘it’ producer, a mediocre cover of a song made famous by a female vocalist and nine or ten album fillers. The material that Derek presents would not have been acceptable as a B-side by any other male vocalist. However, every other make vocalist out there does not have the media coverage and Internet notoriety that Mendiola does.

It is clear that the success of his music can only be attributed to people’s fascination with his public indiscretions and the media coverage that follows. Hardly a news cycle goes by without mention of his antics. His music, however, generally slips under the radar.

I feel it is beneath the integrity of this publication to actually dignify the record with more than one star. I would not give it a single star if it meant that someone would opt out of buying another album to give this one a chance. There are dozens of truly gifted musicians who cannot break because every entertainment news outlet is too busy vying for more news about Derek Mendiola, the celebrity.

If Mendiola really wanted to make a decent record, he would take from all of these sensational experiences we are forced to hear about ad nauseum and express himself through music, not his sexual dalliances. Being a celebrity and having decent sales opening week with a minimal investment in marketing should not green light an album like this.

I refuse to review another Derek Mendiola album until he decides to take music seriously and put out material worthy of its distribution, not only because it liberates me from throwing away another forty five minutes of my life, but because he represents everything that makes pop music reprehensible to anyone with an ear.

Hey Derek, why don’t you shut the f**k up until you have a decent album to release?

Part 4

After reading the review, Derek sits on the black asphalt of the parking lot and takes in everything that Guilfoyle wrote. His first inclination is to get him on the phone and challenge him to say all of that to his face, but then he remembers what Geri told him about fighting.

Derek closes his laptop and grabs his mobile phone. He wants to call Geraldine back and figure out how to go after Guilfoyle, but he realizes that going after his critics and creating yet another public spectacle would only play into his game.

He opens the computer instead and re-reads the review. Derek has spent most of his career fighting for the opportunity to release his own songs, but his label insists on having him stick to formulaic pop written by up-and-coming producers to please his young fanbase. He has never felt more alone and frustrated both personally and artistically.

He closes his computer again, and instead of reaching for a phone to call the media, he grabs his guitar. He begins to strum the chords that speak to his soul – none of which appear on any of his records.

His five minute break from rehearsal is almost gone and the idea of going on every network to perform songs that mean nothing to him makes him want to run away from the whole thing and get a job at a VA hospital, writing music on his guitar in his spare time. Then he remembers the contracts he has signed with labels, concert promoters, radio stations, agents and management. His sadness quickly turns to anger.

Before going back into the rehearsal space, he places his laptop in the middle of the parking lot, picks up his acoustic guitar and begins to smash his computer with it. Still somewhat intact, he grabs the laptop and hurls it against the white exterior wall of the building, chipping some of the plaster and shattering the computer screen. His guitar strings are broken, so he rips them off and uses the neck of the guitar to smash the body until he is standing above yet another mess.

“Yo, we need you back onstage, Bro,” his tour manager says, completely ignoring the shards of wood and silicone that surround the star.

“Alright,” Derek says calmly. Before going back in, he kneels down and sorts through the pieces of his laptop until he finds the hard drive. He walks back to the SUV and places it in his gym bag, then walks back into rehearsal. “Can you have somebody clean that up before I’m done with rehearsal, please?”

“No problem.”

back to Short Fiction

Walks of Life

My lips have become bark, my saliva a thick paste. My joints feel like those of an arthritic man in his early seventies. I’ve grown accustomed to the cramps that have lodged themselves into my ribcage. I feel the blisters on my feet with each step I take, like someone is rubbing sandpaper on an open wound every time my foot hits the ground.

I’m about to give up on my quest when I see the tree-lined street that leads to the houses with the white picket fences. The hope of one day reaching this paved road is what got me through the days and nights that I walked alone through the desert.

I want to cry when my feet first hit pavement, but there isn’t enough fluid left in me to fill a single tear duct. After walking on the scorching sand, the smooth black asphalt makes me feel human again.

Once I’m close enough to the neighborhood, I notice a man exiting his home followed by his wife and daughter. He gives them both a kiss goodbye before walking down to his car on the driveway, a briefcase and coffee tumbler in his hands.

The man is blond with blue eyes and a medium build. He sets his coffee on the roof of his car and scrambles for his keys. Then he catches a glimpse of me as I slowly make my way down the street.

I attempt to smile, but my lips are so parched they break apart instead. Warm blood drips down my chin as I come closer to the family. The man quickly ushers them back into the house, his tumbler and briefcase forgotten atop his sedan. I decide to keep walking.

Before I make it past his house, the man re-emerges holding an assault rifle. He is still wearing his work clothes, a red and blue striped tie tucked into a white wrinkle-free shirt. He cocks his weapon and points it directly at me.

It feels like my blood has been instantly replaced with ice water. All of the hair on my body stands in terror. The shock paralyzes my jaw and my bloody mouth hangs open. My lungs fill with a numbness that almost suffocates me before I can take another step.

I peel my eyes off of the gun for a few seconds to look for help. I see a man in a white lab coat and light blue scrubs outside of the house across the street. I remember the Hippocratic Oath and I am filled with hope again. But my hope for humanity quickly fizzles as he gets down on one knee and pull back a crossbow aimed directly at my heart.

The way that they have positioned their weapons gives me the feeling that they want me to turn around and walk right back to where I came from, but that’s not an option for me. I can only move forward. I would rather die than go back into the desert. In fact, I will die if I go back there.

The thought alone gives me the impulse to continue my journey. Every step I take might be my last, but I am okay with that as long as my last step is in this direction.

After a few steps, the blond guy with the striped tie warns me not to step onto his property.

I slowly make my way past his yard and inch closer to the doctor with the crossbow. I see a stethoscope thrown on the driveway next to a small carton of orange juice that has emptied itself onto the stamped concrete.

When I reach the doctor’s house I find him calmer than the blond guy, but this could only mean that he is more comfortable with his finger on the trigger. I am terrified to look into his eyes, so I look into the window of his house. His wife is standing by the window in the kitchen rinsing his breakfast off their dishes without a care in the world.

The confusion makes me want to scream until my throat is swollen shut. I barely make it past the doctor and his wife before the entire neighborhood has been alerted of my presence. Every property owner is on his or her lawn with some form of armament: bats, whips, maces, guns, swords and crossbows.

The more I walk, the more narrow the street becomes. At first I think it must be an optical illusion created by my fear, but before long the street is two feet wide. It’s almost as if they’ve designed it in a way that would give them a reason to kill me.

I begin to experience vertigo and feel like throwing up. As much as I want to stop, I realize that I have nowhere to go.

Soon, my journey becomes a tightrope walk. My ankles are wobbly and my feet tremble, begging me to give in and just fall to my fate. Right before my knees begin to buckle, I reach the end of the road.

To my horror, the narrow street ends on a cliff. At the bottom of the cliff I see the desert. I look down at where I came from and try to decide my fate. If I let myself fall, I will die before I hit the ground. That seems like the most humane option.

Although I am ready to die, there is a question in my head that keeps my battered body from giving in.

Before accepting my fate, I turn around and look at the people with their weapons. Their apathetic faces incite a fury in me that I have never felt before. They are ready to push me over the edge without hesitation, but I refuse to make it so easy for them. My desperation turns into a hurricane that rips through my lungs. I open my mouth to scream and a gale force wind rushes through me.

WHY?!

As soon as the word escapes my mouth, my body begins to disintegrate. I become part of the sound waves pushing through the white picket fences and trees, past all of the people outside of their single family homes who wish to do me harm.

Gravity has no effect on me anymore. Like an eagle who has finally been set free, I soar toward the sea because there is nothing stopping me anymore.