It’s 11am and I’m in a bathroom somewhere remotely off the L.
Philip and I just got to the afterparty. He’s very handsome, even when he’s drunker and higher than usual and forcing himself to cry. He recently said I love you to the man of his life and I’m sitting by the sink, wondering what meaning he chose to find in those words tonight.
My mother played me a mixtape when I was younger. I was pretty indifferent to anything but song number four. I recently learned it was about promiscuity. She sang it like a lullaby. I have never cheated, and it’s still my biggest fear.
Philip wanted to party all night. I just agreed to follow. I was expecting a heartbreak tour around the Brooklyn underground. He knew all the warehouses. Instead, we headed west. Philip called this area New New York.
It was a place of limitless rent-hikes and bottomless mimosas. We met up with his friends: Andrew, Kevin and Jesse. None of them were his romantic interest. Kevin foot the $250 bill — he was working on redefining the local meaning of affordable.
Andrew asked the question, “so how is this boy?”
Kevin instantly went, I thought he was a Tinder fuck.
Not at all! Philip was so excited to talk about it. They had been texting all week (and the weeks before, too). It was really hard to grasp what that meant in the grand scheme of things. I found myself thinking of talking to someone all week… like talking talking, in person. Unbelievable.
10 years ago he wouldn’t have been amused by this. Philip was even weirder before New York. The city taught him to use iMessage. He would’ve driven to your house before.
But this was a thing now. They were a thing. Jesse was bummed. He thought commitment (at this age) was for Republicans and free, polyamorous sex was the way to find yourself until, of course, you found the one — whoever that was to him. Philip believed he found the one. It was so clear. Philip was the most rational person I knew.
Jesse had a lot of sex. It always frightened me. How did he deal with the emotional repercussions?
Philip and I didn’t grow up in New York, or anywhere like it. I consider our background conservative, but only in the interpersonal sense of the word. I was taught that good sex came with real love and real love was hard work. My parents got divorced, my mom worked hard to promote it in her friend group — somehow she managed to justify it within her conservatism. But she made sense to me. She always did.
We left the bar and headed to a bigger bar. Philip said his boy might join us. I mentally highlighted the word might. Of course he might, he lives in the same city. The question is will he? Everyone seemed so sure of this. Our night went on a speed trip and so did two people in it. Jesse was pumped to hook up and Kevin kept his eyes open, but he was way more subtle. They both had Grindr in the second page of an extra folder on their iPhone — it was like an insurance policy.
Philip didn’t. Philip barely used the apps. Though, he had met this guy on Tinder. It was his first time.
But with each passing hour, Philip decided to get exponentially drunker. He believed that if his boy was going to come later, he, at least, had to see him having fun. It became clear the boy wasn’t going to come.
He did apologize, over text. Someone was having a birthday party. Philip was bummed, but he still wanted to compensate. He felt an emotional obligation to make him feel good about it. Why? I had no idea. But then it hit me: he was in love. Of course, so he said it.
He texted I love you and then it all went quiet. Philip had always been so brave, but I knew he was frightened of falling in love. This time, though; this time he wasn’t afraid. Fuck that.
The boy went on a rant about how he wasn’t looking for anything serious right now. Because his last relationship had ended badly and recently. And there was something about his school life and his projects eating up his free time and he didn’t even think he had enough time to take care of himself. If I don’t have enough time for myself I don’t think I have time to take proper care of someone else. And something about his classes too. His life seemed harsh and ominous.
Ok but then why would you have spent a month texting a boy telling him you weren’t seeing anyone else? But they I listened to myself. What did that even mean?
He had been texting someone for a month and he was single. Those were my (and Philip’s) two clues. But they didn’t mean anything. Philip and his boy had a weird sort of non-pasteurized love — they went from zero to romance in about thirty seconds and now all he did was talk about his feelings. Philip was a real idiot.
How he had become one was a real mystery. This was the boy that taught me to take care of myself. The boy who drove all night just to get us somewhere vaguely fun. He took risks, but he took even bigger care of himself.
Jesse was so satisfied. It was like he almost didn’t want it to work. It did prove his point. Real love is for Republicans. They all got messed up within the hour.
It was 4am and Jesse found a guy, Kevin found a guy online, and Andrew… we didn’t really know where Andrew had gone. He wasn’t really there that night. Maybe I’m just picturing him there.
So it was back to us. Philip took us to a rave… at 5am. This was the Philip I knew. No one from Manhattan would have joined him. But I went. I love Philip. I love him so much it’s not even romantic. For all I knew, there was nothing like the love I had for my mother, and that wasn’t romance. I love Philip like I love my mother.
He crashed at around 11am. Of course... he was wasted. He asked me to go to the bathroom with him. I waited, and he was too drunk to cry. He was too drunk to feel it. So he forced the tears out of his eyes. And they came out, somehow. He was sobbing for a bit. Then I hugged him, and almost as a natural response he looked at me in the eyes. He thought I wanted to kiss him, so he kindly made the first move. I didn’t. I didn’t like Philip that way.
I enjoyed the kiss. We made it last a little long. I honestly just went along with it. It was shocking to me he didn’t know he was just a friend to me.
But then he took his lips away from mine and he grabbed my head with his hands. And he said he was sorry if this meant something to me,
but he had just gotten out of a relationship that ended badly, and he barely had time for himself.
He apologized for the inconvenience. He wasn’t looking for love at the moment. I remained speechless. I didn’t know if to laugh. For his sake in that moment, I didn’t say anything. I really hope the next morning he came to his senses.