The Aquarium (Chapters 11 & 12–The End), Alan Semrow

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Chapter 11:

 

At the gay club, Blondie’s “Atomic” rang high and we danced and shouted the word Atomic! at high, high, high volume. Earlier that day, Remi and I had visited the gym and followed that was a warm stay at the tanning salon. At the salon, Remi informed me that it remains of utmost importance for gay men to both work out and tan. He said we are the definition of beauty, the poster children of perfection. He said that so long as we as a population are looking better than the straight community, rest assured, we are doing quite alright. I began to laugh his comments off and then he told me that I needed to stop laughing at him and, instead, should consider taking him a little more seriously.

I said fine and suggested that maybe we start taking our living situation more seriously. Remi asked what I meant and I told him that my place was outdated. He shook his head and said that it was BoHo and, therefore, not worth our time at all. I told him I was thinking more bachelor pad and he told me that he was thinking I don’t have the money to make it that.

As “Atomic” raged on, Remi grabbed me by the shoulders and hugged. I hugged him back and, with that, a little something appeared in front of my nose. He told me that it was good for my gay spirit.

Only about three times before had I done poppers. The times I had, it was in the bedroom, always in preparation for anal sex.

It had been at least five years since the last time I had done poppers. I told him this and he clapped the vial against his hand, smiled, and jumped once in the air with joy. He said even better, since five years ago matters just about as much as the dinosaurs.

I told him I was drunk enough. This didn’t matter to him. Remi put the vial right up to my nose and I snorted once.

The room turned to a neon fog and I thought maybe God was lowering down upon our gay, gay scene. He asked me if I was horny now. I stumbled past him and onto the mini-stage in the corner. I danced and felt the music like never before. I felt the life. For the first time in so long, I felt complete happiness. Now, nothing mattered.

No, I learned in that moment that life didn’t have to mean responsibility.

I staggered off the stage and toward the men’s bathroom. I stood in line for just about five seconds and then walked to the front. I heard a long, disoriented boo and then grabbed the young man closest to the bathroom door. As two men exited, we entered. I locked the door and grabbed his crotch. I pulled his cock out and sucked it hard. I told him that I wanted him to fuck me, that my asshole was fucking ready for him, that I wanted him to pound, pound, pound me until it wore off.

He spit on his hand, rubbed his cock, threw my pants off and fucked me against the sink. Condoms didn’t matter anymore. None of us thought about them. We only thought about how much better it felt without one. After he came, he sucked me off until I exploded in absolute ecstasy all over his face.

I lifted myself from the sink and looked in the mirror at my half naked body in the mirror. Naturally, the sink handle had left a bruised imprint on my right hip. I rubbed at it and then muttered something about how it was so worth it.

The guy asked me whatand I said that I thought he had already gone.

As we exited the bathroom, the sketchy boo’s continued to ring off. I felt frightened, but then made eye contact and smiled at Remi who was standing right there. He said good work kid and I kissed him on the lips.

Good work, kid, he said. Good work, kid.

He offered me another hit of poppers. I snorted and then mixed it down with Remi’s fresh margarita.

 

Back at my place, I took my cock out and jacked off as Remi fucked a big, tall, muscular fag against my refrigerator. I stood, dumbfounded and drunk, in awe of their round asses, the constant and precise thrusts. I watched Remi’s cock at varying angles as it went in and then out and then in and then out. I gasped and grunted with them, as they continued. It all looked like love, but it wasn’t love at all.

When Remi was on the verge of cumming, he looked back at me, looked back at me and gazed with his sex-crazed face. To this day, I swear he mouthed out the words I love you. And, out loud, I know for certain, that I said I loved him back.

The man big, tall, muscular man told me to shut the fuck up and, so, once more, I muttered, saying that, Remi, I loved Remi Zarling.

After the dude left, Remi hugged me again. He asked if I had cum and I pointed at my kitchen floor. We looked at the area, where my splooge has slowly melted into Remi’s. It was the opposite of oil and vinegar. We both smiled and Remi asked me how many cigarettes we had left in the pack. I told him plenty.

Hand in hand, the two of us walked up steps to the top of the apartment. We both lit cigarettes and looked out onto the street below. Remi told me that we had done it. I asked what it meant and he only continued to blow his smoke.

We sat down on the lawn chairs and he told me that tomorrow, after tanning, after lifting, after doing our ab work-out, we should both get laid.

I smiled and told him okay.

We smoked two more cigarettes and then called it a night as we fell to sleep on top of our broken down chairs; the city below, tired and silent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12:

The four of us entered my apartment and Remi ran over to the stereo system. He threw a few of my CD’s across the room and I told him to settle down over there. He told me to shut up for a moment.

Erotica. Remi pressed play told us that AIDS had struck and that all of America was beginning to reexamine its sexuality. That’s what made this release and the released of the Sex book so important. He said he continued to believe. She spoke of love. She spoke of sex. She spoke of her special, special point of view.

Remi asked if the two guys continued to believe and they nodded, if only to say that they were ready to have sex now.

He told us to just listen a minute. To listen now to “Erotica” and “Fever” and “Deeper and Deeper” and “Rain.”

As “In This Life” began, Remi began to cry. From across the room, I asked if he was going to be alright. He removed a popper from his pocket and snorted. The song detailed Madonna’s friendship with a gay man who had died of AIDS. Remi told us that today we remember the brothers that came before us. Tears continued to fall and I wanted so badly to get up and dry his eyes, but I didn’t, because I knew he was in the moment. I listened and I thought with him of all those men, all those brave brothers. All those people we had lost so, so, so early. The art we’d never see, the music we’d never hear. When Erotica finished, Remi made a diatribe about the importance of safe sex, which only seemed ironic knowing his recent track record. He then informed us about the importance of honing and loving and enjoying our sexuality.

Remi put on Bedtime Stories and blew past “Survival” and into “Secret.” Remi told us that this was perfect songwriting. This was R&B. This was pop. This was perfection. He skipped past multiple song and then stopped at the strange, opening chords of “Human Nature.” Remi told us to listen and to please speak up if we didn’t relate.

Fortunately, we all related.

As Madonna sang, “I’m not your bitch, don’t blame you shit on me,Remi screamed the same. It made me wonder if he was screaming it to anyone in particular, but I was certain he was not. We listened to “Take a Bow,” the final song on the record. “I’ve always been in love with you. I guess you’ve always known it’s true.” Remi told us that it was time to dance. We stood and grasped our prospects of the night. Remi kissed his and I kissed mine. We then leaned close and kissed each other.

Remi said something about how critics noted that this album indicated a decline in her career, but, sorry to say, she proved them all wrong with the release of Ray of Light. He told us that this was her masterpiece. He skipped past songs and paused at “Frozen,” dancing for us, singing for us, snorting more poppers, drinking more wine, lighting more cigarettes.

By the end of that record, we had all done the same and all stood in an inebriated state.

Remi called Music her second greatest masterpiece and, like clockwork, played it for us. He said this was her gayest album and we said hell yeah.

We listened to American Life. Remi spoke of the flack she had gotten for the record, how many viewed as incredibly dogmatic. He told us that we all had to reconcile the fact that “Easy Ride,” “Nothing Fails,” and “Intervention” are some of her most intimate and honest songs of all time. Remi said that if anyone but Madonna had released it, they would have gotten raves.

We listened to Confessions on a Dance Floor and, seeing as we were all so drunk and high, we danced to some of the better snippets of song that Remi played. We kissed to it. Spoke to it. And Remi proclaimed her second gayest record of all time.

He took a moment between Confessions and Hard Candy to tell us that it was time to listen to him. We listened. Remi explained that, at the time of the release of Music, Madonna was probably at her hottest, but this unfortunately changed as she aged and went through menopause and then released Hard Candy. He said we could not listen to it for too long, because he might get depressed.

We listened to one song from that record.

He announced that he would also only be doing a brief survey of her next record, MDNA. By this point, all I could think was thank God. I looked to the clock and it was five in the morning. The four of us were plastered and three of us were desperately waiting for the sex we had been promised. As, we listened to “Gimme All Your Luvin,” Remi said that, sometimes, we age in this life and our relevance fades away. The youth fades and we become old gay men. We become old gay men with broken penises and crazy pasts. Madonna, now she’s one of them, but Remi instill that he still gave her so much credit for trying to retain that semblance of popularity. He said that unfortunately, it’s not there any longer. She’s aged and we’re aging too.

After the song ended, Remi grabbed his date by the hand, offered him yet another hit of poppers and bent him over the sofa.

I took another snort and grabbed my date and situated him across from Remi’s. We tore their clothes off and then our own. We applied a huge amount of lube on our cocks and then we began to fuck. As we entered, we stared into each other and let off a prolonged sigh. We edged close and smooched once. We fucked the men raw. We fucked them all the way through the silence that had been left by the final Madonna album that Remi had played that night. Remi winked at me and I knew what he meant.

We took our cocks out and rubbed them until we came. We sat on the shoulders of our respective men, inched in close to each other, grabbed one another by our taut hips, and came. I came all over Remi’s torso and he came all over mine.

We both let out our gasps of air and then kissed once more.

 

Remi and I stood atop the apartment building, slow dancing in only our underwear until the sun came up. The drugs began to wear off and the alcohol began to move through our systems. From time to time, we would take bathroom breaks and piss on the warm cement atop the building.

On the rooftop, we held onto each other until eight in the morning.

On the rooftop, we did not sleep.

On the rooftop, we did not say much of anything at all to each other. I only thanked Remi for giving me everything I could have ever wished for in a friend and he thanked me for the same.

On the rooftop, we danced for the world, we felt as if we held it in our hands, as if we had achieved everything we could have ever wished for.

By eight, the sun was in full bloom and I removed myself from Remi’s shoulder. The side of my face had grown numb and I only laughed at the fact.

I suggested that maybe we should try to get some rest. He began to laugh that precious, outrageous laugh and told me that the day was only beginning. That it was time for coffee.

He backed away from me and started dancing and singing the lyrics to “Hung Up.” He had invented these moves.

Remi smiled and jumped and jumped and jumped and then ran back to me, hugged me once, kissed me once, jumped back, back, back, back, back, back before I could say to stop. The last thing I saw was a shadow of Remi Zarling and all I heard was my own scream.

He had left me and had died the perfect death.

The Aquarium (Chapters 9 & 10), Alan Semrow

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Chapter 9:

 

It was afternoon when Remi suggested that we use the top of the building more often. We headed up and sat on those old, dilapidated chairs. He told me that he still wanted to know everything there was to know about me and I told him that he must already know.

He said he knew I was a lonely child and I told him that he must have been as well, all gay men were. He laughed and told me that he grew up amongst a bunch of hippies, people that didn’t give a flying fuck about most anything. All preconceived notions of Remi vanished. No, he wasn’t the young boy who sat in his room listening to Madonna records. He instead lived in trailers, watching his parents smoke weed, reveling in his gay and free self. Reveling in the options, the possibilities. Life never took on a fleck of glamour for him, but at least it was open-minded. Being gay was not only allowed, but celebrated—the way it always should be.

Remi cracked his knuckles and then revealed that the only thing his parents hated was fags. He told me that he spent the vast majority of his time isolated, in his room, listening to records by The Doors and Janis Joplin. He said that he never did come out until the two of them passed away, passed away as a result of heavy drug use, a self-destructive lifestyle. Remi said that he never did get into drugs until he came to town, but he never did like them so much. They only made him feel stupid, a feeling that didn’t go well against his intrinsic intellect.

They weren’t my words, but I believed in what he was saying.

I asked when he moved here and he looked to the sky and then removed his shirt. He said that it’s a beautiful day and that he hated talking about the past, because it was unproductive.

I didn’t want to disagree, but I pried just a little further. I felt it would be stupid of me not to take advantage of this opportunity. I asked him once more when he moved here.

He said it was ten years ago, which would have made him just about 18.

His parents had died young. Remi had been left early. I asked about brothers and sisters and he said none. I asked him about all this money that he claimed to be inheritance and he said his parents never lived in a fucking trailer home or anything. No, they were rich as could be. Troubadours of the land, who had taken advantage when politics became so central in the fight for rights.

No, not all of this made sense to me, but I didn’t ask when I should have. I didn’t allow the opportunity for all the blanks to be filled. Instead, I only asked how he came out.

He told me that he came to town and announced it to every single he came across. His entire life before that, in high school, dealing with bullies, dealing with the comments about “fags” and “queers” from his parents—none of it happened. All that happened was Remi came to the city and found residence and found his way. Someway, somehow.

Remi said that he made the decision to start over and to start over loudly. He wanted to enjoy life. He wanted to live life the way he was meant to be lived. He wanted to be the greatest homosexual he could be.

I lit a cigarette and blew my spiral above our heads. Staring up with Remi, I blew into the air. Up, up, and away. And then Remi told me it was my turn.

I told him that I used to borrow my sister’s Sheryl Crow records and sit in my room after school each and every day, writing, reading, sketching, thinking. Most of all, dreaming. I dreamt my childhood away as my parents fought, drank, and eventually divorced.

Coming out in high school only seemed a non-option. I distracted myself by being there for people that I shouldn’t have been. Developing these codependent friendships that only ever resulted in my hurt feelings, my broken heart. Instead of falling in love with men, I fell in love with people that could never ever reciprocate my feelings for them, friends that used me until I was useless. I told Remi that I worked really hard in school. I worked hard and got good grades and found validation in that. Found validation in the creative tasks I would give myself at night and on the weekends. I challenged myself to no end, hoping for that end resolve that would only signal that I had accomplished the feats Sheryl Crow had.

Fame. That’s what I wanted more than anything. I wanted fame and worldwide acclaim, respect. During those days, I would have done anything to achieve it. I worked myself night after night after night, trying to prove that I was worth it, but, after all that work, I would sit and think and I’d hate myself. After all the accomplishments and the awards in school and the full ride through college, I found myself at the end of the day identifying the places I had gone wrong. Finding something in myself to hate. I fell into depression and even bipolar-like behavior. OCD. I thought I was fucked up and I thought I deserved it.

I knew I’d leave the suburbs behind and try to live by my own merits, by my only rules. Once I hit college age, the only thing I truly wanted was to set myself free and I reckoned the only reasonable way to do so was to come out and share my news to the world, share my insights. And so I began. All by word-of-mouth. It seemed I told every single person I had ever known. And people from my past reconnected and apologized. People from my present, some of them disowned me. And so, after my undergrad, after a year or so of fucking man after man after man and hoping with each and every one that something, something would leave me feeling whole, I moved back in with my mother and made it my mission to find a job in the city. As an editor, as a copywriter. Whatever. I didn’t care. As long as they were okay with me being gay, with me being a gay English Lit major.

And I found that job. I moved to the city and worked as I got my MA. Studied my ass off, worked my ass off, kept moving up and up and up.

And then the movement stopped and I stopped and I looked around and thought, well, shit all this success and I’m still the person I once was. I’m still not free.

And, I told Remi that that was the place I was at when he came along.

Remi began to laugh and I laughed with him.

Soon, two gay, gay voices rang right off the top of my apartment building. The sun was going down and, now, Remi Zarling knew everything important there was to know about me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10:

It was a week later when Remi hosted the first meeting. Twenty gay men sat around my apartment and ten bottles of wine lined the countertop. We all smoked and drank in silence, waiting for our fair leader to stand in front and inform us of what the fuck we were doing here.

Remi poured himself a glass and stood in front of my albums, in front of my books. Stood in front of us in only his underwear. He asked us if he looked sexy and we laughed and smiled and applauded.

Remi pressed play on the stereo. The closing of the door. Remi announced that this is it, people. Life is a mystery.

Remi said that this is as close to art as pop music will ever get. He said that this is her first masterpiece of a record.

One of the boys muttered what about Who’s That Girl and Remi told him to shut the fuck up, that it’s not a studio album and, therefore, needn’t be considered here.

Remi pressed skip.

“Express Yourself.” Remi asked who is ready for her first gay anthem.

The same boy in the corner asked what about “Vogue”?

Everyone tried to hold in their laughter. I watched as Remi’s face grew pissed off. From the top of his lungs, he screamed that “Express Yourself” was her first fucking gay anthem! He scolded the boy and told him that he better shut the fuck up for the rest of the conversation before he got punched in the fucking face.

Remi told us to notice the funk here. To notice the incorporation of all the different genres, of the expressionism, of the adventure, of the dance.

And then he skipped past three songs until “Cherish” began. He said two words “basic bitch” and then skipped forward once again. The rest of the album played as Remi preached that this was the moment when we all could identify that she was here for us, making music for us. The controversy. The Pepsi commercial. The love, the vulnerability, the religion and the sex. Her father! Her relationship with Sean fucking Penn! The bad reviews! The criticism! The chauvinism! The record company!

Remi said it’s all here.

As “Act of Contrition” began, he told us all to stay silent and began to do the sign of the cross. Once the song finished, Remi told us that we were now all free. That life starts on this day and does not stop until we die our most perfect deaths. We are now free of our sin.

I tried not to smile as Remi went on. I certainly couldn’t take the whole charade quite as seriously as I figured a vast majority of the other men were.

Remi announced that we are not faggots.

No, we are FAGGOT.

Everyone applauded, including myself.

Remi walked to the kitchen. The eyes of all of the men followed him. He poured another glass of wine and returned with a yamaka on his head. There Remi Zarling stood, in the center of my living room, wearing only a yamaka and his lime green underwear. Madonna’s Like a Prayer had just finished and now he was holding a glass of wine, letting us all know that we were free. He told us that we will begin having these meetings each Tuesday night. We will called it the Tuesday Night Music Club.

Now, now, now. I could not help but laugh. Remi eyed me as I did so and then turned his attention back to the rest of the group. Remi said he would now open the room up for questions. That boy in the corner raised his hand and spoke before being called on. He asked what the fuck we were doing here. Very gently, Remi asked the young twink the come to the front of the group. The boy did as told.

As the boy approached, Remi grabbed Like a Prayer and held it in front of the young man. He told him to put his hand on it. The boy laughed and followed the directions. With this, Remi took the album and smacked it across the man’s face so heard that the CD shattered and left a long cut across his cheek.

The entire room gasped as I got up ran over to help the boy up. He squirmed as I did so. Remi stated that someone had to be made an example of and then thanked the twink for volunteering. I asked what he had done that for and Remi said that he had told the young man nicely to not speak for the remainder of the evening.

I helped the poor boy into the kitchen and threw a bag of bloody ice at him. He caught it and set it against his face, thanking me.

As I sat back down and folded my arms, Remi asked the men why we were calling this the Tuesday Night Music Club.

Someone raised his hand and said that we’re calling it that because it’s gonna take place on Tuesdays. Remi told him that that was an awful guess and then informed everyone, but me that Tuesday Night Music Club was the first album by Sheryl Crow, our second matriarch next to Madonna. Remi said that on Tuesday Night Music Club, Sheryl Crow brought combined classic roots rock sound with updated techniques. He said it was done with such mastery that now we must only revel in her accomplishments as the best musician of all time.

Someone asked what about Madonna and Remi said that fucking Madonna is not a fucking musician. The room applauded and I lit a cigarette.

Remi said that we are gathered here today for the second coming. He told us that second coming is spelled S-E-C-O-N-D C-U-M-M-I-N-G. We laughed and Remi grinned. He then said that if anyone is curious as to why Sheryl Crow is our second matriarch they need only listen to her second, self-titled album. On it, we are given the grittiness of gay life, the love, and the hope. Remi raised his hands and then lowered his left and took a gulp of wine. He asked how many of us feel 100% happiness in our lives. No one raised their hand but Remi. He asked us if we wanted to know why and how he was so happy. Everyone nodded, including the cripple in the kitchen.

Remi said that he’s Goddamned happy, because he chooses to be. Because this is the first day of the rest of our lives. Because all of us have spent enough time feeling lonely and sad and insecure. Because James Franco is gay.

Because we are all G-A-Y.

And G-A-Y means fucking happy.

Remi said that now we all become it.

He asked us all to begin listening to him and we did as we had been—we listened. We listened to Remi tell us that the only reason why we are unhappy is because we’re so used to be unhappy. Life needs a celebration. Remi told us that all of our gay leaders are coming out and saying things, such as: all we ask is that we be accepted. Remi called bullshit. He said that no, we need to be fucking celebrated and we will be because every straight person in this world will now know who we ate out last night. Every straight person will be witness to how we find men at these bars, how we fall in love, how we came out and told our families our “bad news.”

As I put my cigarette out into the ashtray, Remi paused and glared across the room at me. He told us that we needed love now more than anything. The love of brothers. The love of lovers. The love of friends. He said that we’re all fish in this vast blue sea full of other fish. That we’re all pretty dolphins yearning for the same thing.

Remi told everyone to stand.

Remi said that, this week, we will all be open-minded to love. That, yes, we may all fuck and run a few times, but that it is of utmost importance to let someone deeper into our lives, rather than just deeper into our assholes.

He asked us to take a bow and then they filed out… in pairs.

I walked to the kitchen and lifted the young twink from the kitchen floor. I told him that he might need stitches and that he could keep the bag if he wanted, the bag that had been used at least once before by Pizza. He thanked me and I thought how sweet a guy.

Remi closed the door behind him and smiled at me. He walked over and kissed me on the mouth and told me that that went much better than he thought it would.

 

The Aquarium (Chapters 7&8), Alan Semrow

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Chapter 7:

 

And so what do you do with vacant hours? Do you drink it away? Do you smoke pack after pack after pack? Do you ponder what the rest of your life might become? After demolishing your one-upon-a dreams, your only means of income, what are you? Do you look in the mirror and wonder if you’re still pretty, still young enough to be considered the best kind of meat?

Do you go and frequent the bar, hoping, hoping, hoping to spot him? That man that you think owes something to you, but doesn’t actually owe you shit.  You think that maybe you only owe him. Owe him something.

Truth is, you do always have that option to live a sad sack of a life, fixated on everything you’ve done wrong. You always have the capability to become the most negative person on God’s green earth. You always have the capacity to be someone who is only riding on the past, only riding on the future, only riding on the worst kind of mindset you could possibly possess.

Or you could stop before it gets worse, step out onto your fire escape and smoke a fucking cigarette. Slurp at your glass of wine and think about how nice it is to begin, to finally begin. How swell it is to live in this present moment, knowing that your only goal from here on out is to inspire, is to guide, is to develop an understanding based solely on love.

During those days of complete and utter silence, Remi-free, I identified that it was time to grab hold, that it was time to give something to this world. I began writing a book, but I grew bored. I began to paint a picture, but I realized I didn’t know how to paint. I wrote a poem that only diffused what I was trying to say.

I didn’t even know what I was trying to say.

I wrote an essay titled “Lavender Remains the Color” and I sent it off to sixty literary journals. I thought it explained things, explained my discontent, but, as I wrote, as I sent, I only realized I had no solution at all. No solution to this place where I was bound for life, happily bound for life.

The philosophy was in place, but what wasn’t was the support, the validation, the love. I thought a lot about the business man, who had fucked my asshole so wide open, but I thought much more about Remi Zarling who I knew I needed more than I wanted to admit.

You always need someone. Always. Always. Always. The company even of strangers. Without it, your life only grows gray and you only grow dismal and crazy, dying a little inside each and every day.

That was the real problem with academia. They spent so much time trying to achieve that fucking document that, by the end of it all, the goal was lost. What remained of the goal? What remained of their soul? They come into the classroom and try to make learning fun, or try to make you understand, but they lose because most of them no longer hold the determination that it took in the first place. The institution drained them and I refused to be drained.

 

Spending each night at the gay bar only represented an overwhelming amount of faith in which I was proud to possess. The faith in myself, the fullness of self. I went and breathed in the neon and the thumpa-thumpa music. I drank margaritas and waited, laying heads and tails by myself.

It took three nights of this. It took three whole nights until Remi Zarling showed, walked into the bar, proclaimed Heads! and kissed me on the mouth. I started to cry and he wiped the tears. I thanked him for coming back and he said that he knew it always took three days. I asked what he meant and he said that he used to have this therapist who said that you only need twenty days to instill a new habit, a new positive habit in life, but Remi always called bullshit and said that no, it was in fact only three. Three days was all it ever took to reanalyze and redevelop the purpose of it all.

That night, he handed me an envelope, smushed and splashed by whatever Remi Zarling had been up to. I offered my most confused of looks and split the thing open. I had my check. My rent check, my check for everything Remi owed.

Three thousand dollars.

I asked him what for and he told me to shut the hell up. I asked him how and he said inheritance always wins over the struggles of life.

I folded the check and put it into my back pocket. Remi then ordered me another margarita.

At the jukebox, Remi put in ten dollars’ worth and then the opening orchestra of “Papa Don’t Preach” echoed through the room. We stood and watched as Remi rose above the crowd and sprouted his arms out like a stigmata. Two young twinks approached him and bowed.

Remi gazed out across the room to me and yelled that Robin, this is where the artistry truly began. This fucking song, right here. No more did we have innocuous songs about love. Here, we had something that had never been heard before.

As Madonna began to sing, Remi opened his mouth and screamed that Papa, I know you’re going to be upset!!!

Remi stood on atop the stool through the entire duration of the album. He told me to notice the use of classical music, of art pop techniques. He told me that I could tell that there had been some Andy Warhol influence here. “Open Your Heart” began and he told all the men in the room to open their hearts to each other, to kiss the person next to them on the lips. I watched as black men kissed white men, as Latinos kissed Asians, as straight women kissed gay men. I kissed the barbequed lips a fat man wearing a leather coat and Remi kissed his own hand.

During “Live to Tell,” Remi reformed the stigmata and sang the entire tune, word-for-word, but louder than even Madonna. As “Where’s the Party?” began, he told us that “Live to Tell” was her first true statement of absolute self-empowerment. You hear the vulnerability, the hesitancy, but she comes through stronger, knowing that Sean Penn might not be the answer.

“True Blue” started and Remi announced that this is about a big, veiny cock.

“La Isla Bonita” began and Remi looked and me and muttered that this is about us. Even though it truly wasn’t and conveyed no resemblance to my relationship with Remi Zarling at all.

As the incredibly clichéd “Love Makes the World Go Round” played, Remi removed himself from his platform and walked over to me. He kissed me on the lips and downed his entire margarita. He told me it was time for a cigarette. He thumbed one from his pocket and lit it. I looked at the bartender, who was busy making a drink for one of Remi’s twinks. I told him that he couldn’t smoke in the bar and he laughed and said that he could do whatever the fuck he wanted. I looked again to the bartender who still paid no concern. I nodded as Remi put a cigarette in my mouth and lit it. I breathed out smoke and looked again to the bartender.

It was at this point when I realized that Remi had accomplished just about as much as, once upon a time, Madonna had. I scanned the bar and I could see that all of these men were under Remi Zarling’s care. I didn’t know how he did it and feared to even ask, but, rest assured, I was rest assured.

 

Back at my apartment, Remi stripped down to his own underwear and lay across my old, worn sofa. He told me that he felt like a hamburger. I asked why and he said it just sounded really good right now. I sat next to him and he asked me how it had gone with the businessman. I told him that I didn’t even remember Greg’s name and that it was absolutely nothing. He asked if love had fallen out of the picture and I told him that it must have the moment he entered me. Remi laughed to himself for a few brief moments and said something about how I had just made a very large and significant statement.

He lit a cigarette and we sat in silence. I asked him if maybe he wanted to listen to something by Melissa Etheridge and he said that he fucking hated Melissa Etheridge and that he’d rather listen to my lines of questioning.

It was then that I asked him if he had ever had a boyfriend.

Yes. Without protest, he told me yes. I asked him who the guy was and Remi said that he was a straight guy. A straight guy that turned just for him, just that once for Remi Zarling. He was a straight guy that fucked Remi nightly and, after sex, served him dinner and wine.

He was a straight guy who bought him nice things and divorced his wife for him.

A straight guy. A straight guy that told Remi he loved him only after knowing him a week. He invited him to live at his place. He bought Remi a Shih Tzu and a subscription to both Out and HBO.

They kissed often and fucked even more. It was during this time that Remi removed himself from the circuit and decided he would settle down. He would settle down and live happily with his straight man, at his apartment, which had a balcony where Remi could smoke and look down at the river. Remi told me that it was like he was living in Venice with a strange Italian, a species he had never known, but could only see himself with for the remainder of time. I asked Remi what happened and that was when he broke. He broke all that strength that must have taken years to build up. Remi said the guy left him for his female secretary, returned back to the straight and narrow, taking with him the Shih Tzu and leaving Remi with $50,000 pity money and temporary residence with a few of women on the east side.

It was then that Remi met me. He said he met me all lonely and friendless and scholarly-like, looking for answers in all the wrong places, digging myself into a hole that, eventually, I wouldn’t ever be able to struggle out of.

I asked him how he knew and he said nothing. He simply smiled and said that he wanted to sleep next to me tonight in my bed.

And I said okay.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8:

 

The next night, Remi brought a man home who announced that he served pizza to the stars. I asked if he had ever served Madonna and he said he’d never tell.

In the midst of all this, I was reading Dancer from the Dance and concentrating hard on the distinction between then and now. As I turned the page, Remi announced that I would be fucking the pizza man tonight and that he would watch. I asked what I got out of it and he said that I got to get fucked and I said whatever that means nowadays.

I glanced from the book and to Remi’s expression. He looked pissed, but slightly understanding. He turned to the pizza guy and asked if we could get a free pizza. The pizza guy laughed and said that we were just a bunch of nelly fags who didn’t know what the fuck we wanted in life.

It seems like it all happened in slow motion now, but, what I saw next was Remi’s fist hitting hard against Pizza. I heard a yelp, similar to that of the sound Remi made when he orgasmed. I jumped up and scattered over to the bloodied man on the floor, writhing against the wood, begging Remi to let him go, while holding his bloodied face.

I asked Remi what the fuck he was thinking and he said that men don’t talk to him this way anymore. I told him that I understood where he was coming from in bringing the dude over and everything, but that I wasn’t really interested in having sex tonight. Remi rolled his eyes and helped the pizza guy up. He sat the guy down at my bar and drew a bag of ice from the freezer. He offered it to the guy and said that he needn’t ever talk down to the two of us again, that we rule him.

Pizza said okay and covered his face.

With that, Remi left the apartment, announcing that he was going to go fuck someone.

I sat next to Pizza at the bar and asked how Remi found him and he said that he’s known Remi for years, that they used to fuck every once in a while until Remi discovered one day that Pizza had given him crabs.

I laughed until Pizza uncovered his face and glared at me. I told him that no, no, I got crabs once too. Pizza muttered that it’s just a part of the gay condition and I felt like laughing again.

Pizza smiled at me and, on a whim or something, grabbed my dick and I then grabbed his. I told him that it was time for him to suck me off.

As I was getting blown, my cellphone rang. I picked it from the side table and answered, breathing heavily. Remi asked if it was the best blowjob in the world and I breathed out that oh yes it was.

I came in Pizza mouth and he swallowed. As I buckled my belt, I told him that he could crash on the sofa and he did as told.

At around four in the morning, Remi stumbled in, completely belligerent and taken over by more than just alcohol. He wobbled over to my bed and lay directly on top of me. Already, I could smell a combination of smoke, jizz, and spit. I turned on my bed lamp, grabbed his face, and shook him. I asked where the fuck he’s been. I asked who the fuck he’s been with.

And then I noticed the bruise across his cheek. He said he got fucked so hard tonight. His first orgy in years. I told him that it’s four in the fucking morning. And he said hello, this is our future. I helped him off the bed and took him into the bathroom. I put him on his knees and held his face, so I could get a clear picture of the damage. I applied some ointment and figured that kind of stupid, because he was in desperate need of a shower. I ran the water and helped him in, where the cum and spit were washed clear off him. I told him that he smelled like shit and he said that one of the dudes hadn’t enema-d. I muttered something about how disgusting that was and Remi drunkenly balked, telling me that if I wanted to be proper gay, I must understand that sometimes shit does happens.

My mind traced back to a few minor incidents where shit had cropped up. Where shit had surprised me or a lover. Remi’s point certainly reconciled those moments, but it also didn’t mean that I needed to hear any more about Remi’s evening. As much as I understood what he was maybe beginning to prove to himself, I also reckoned that he was up to something far too self-destructive for his own good. I tried to make this clear and Remi quickly shut it down, telling me that I was only making a moot point.

I rinsed the shampoo from his head and helped him into a pair of my pajama pants. That night, we slept next to each other. That night, Remi spooned me.

The Aquarium (Chapter 5&6), Alan Semrow

Standard

Chapter 5:

Remi stood atop a chair at the back of the bar and announced to everyone around us that he got laid yesterday. I watched as the men looked on with disgust. In that moment, I feared for Remi, but only for his reputation.

I walked over to him and suggested that maybe he should think of getting down. I offered my hand and he slapped it away, muttering the word “fucker” under his breath. He raised up his one free hand and he asked the open question: who in the fuck has been rammed more recently? One tanned guy in the corner raised his hand and the entire room went silent.

Remi winced and asked when. The guy said this morning… by his boyfriend. Remi shook his head and said that did count.

Another guy raised his hand, a guy in a neon tank, slim, but not twinky. Remi asked what and the guy said that he got laid this afternoon. Remi asked by what medium and I think the guy thought he was talking about psychics, so he just laughed. Remi reiterated what medium and the guy said Grindr. We all sighed, because we all already understood what Remi was trying to say.

The room remained quiet. Remi’s eyes circle the room. No one else raised their hand. Remi asked who wanted to get laid.

Slowly but surely, all arms raised, including mine, if only to encourage. Remi eyed the built, half-black guy in front of him. They smiled at each other and Remi retreated from his soapbox. He put his drink on the counter, told me to pay for that, walked up to the black guy, grabbed him by the arm, and led him to the men’s bathroom. Before the bartender could shout anymore then you can’t do that any…, Remi had locked the door and had already begun to pursue the stranger.

I walked away from Remi’s scene and to the front of the bar. I opened my phone and read an email from the graduate school. They were still waiting for my analysis. I thought of what I might say back, what kind of an excuse I could offer. Might I just say that they didn’t matter anymore, that a sexual revolution was already in the works, that my contribution to this might be more personally rewarding than that.

I watched as a man approached the bar. I called heads and, turns out, I was correct. He smiled and took a seat next to me. He in his business attire: a light pink dress shirt and dress pants that fitted his unrelenting ass quite well. He asked if he could buy me something and I looked into his bright blue eyes that were very nicely outlined by his perfect tan. I said sure. I proceeded to gulp down the remainder of my margarita and told him that I’d like another.

The business man ordered two margaritas.

As the bartender prepared the drinks, I looked to the back of the room where a line of men were now standing in pairs. No, not only would Remi Zarling be getting laid tonight.

The man asked me if I came around these parts often and I told him that, as of late, it appeared I had been coming there every single night. He laughed and said he rarely did, that it had been awhile. I narrowed my eyes at him and gave him my sex grin, the grin that suggested that, yes, I was interested in fulfilling all of his wild desires.

He asked me what I did and I said I was unemployed, but that, once upon a time, I had held editing, copywriting, technical writing, teaching, and academic positions. The business man looked down at his fresh drink.

To be nice, I asked what he did and he said he worked at a marketing firm. I told him that that must be lucrative and he said that it can be. I took two long gulps from the margarita and asked if he wanted to get out of here. As I did so, Remi resurfaced from the bathroom and danced back over to me, leaving his tryst in the background, fading away in neon. Remi grabbed my elbow and said that, holy shit, that guy fucked him without hands. I wondered for a second how well that could truly work, but before I could say anything, Remi told me that he himself was surprised at how well it went. I made note of his forehead, which was sporting an outline of a bruise. Remi gazed up at the mirrored ceiling and checked himself out. He told me that this is the life.

I thought of introducing the business man in pink, but realized I didn’t know his name. Remi looked at him, expecting my introduction and I simply said that that this is… uh…

And the guy said his name.

Remi smiled very large and shook his hand, saying so, so nice to meet Robin’s future lover. I shook my head embarrassed and told Remi that I was in the midst of a discussion and, in response, Remi simply said that it was time to go.

I looked briefly to businessman and said to Remi I couldn’t at the moment. He shook his head and put both hands on his hips and said that yes, yes I could. I told him that no, no I couldn’t. Remi said he was tired, that it was time to fucking go.

I looked to the bruise on his head and then back at the businessman who was beginning to look a touch agitated. I suggested that maybe Remi sleep at his own place tonight. In return, he only rolled his eyes and exited the bar without a word.

I asked the businessman once more if we could get out of there. His eyebrows made a question mark, which only led me to believe that nothing would happen tonight. He asked me who that was and I said my drunk friend, Rem. The businessman laughed and I only felt relief.

He threw a twenty onto the counter and then I threw three ten’s. The businessman didn’t ask why I had laid down so much.

Outside the bar, he asked if I wanted it to be my place or his. I always hated being the guest, so I thought of saying mine, but I then remembered Remi. Would he be waiting outside the door? Would he be inside my apartment? Would he be on the rooftop? Where would he be? I felt guilt and then I looked to the man and I felt hope.

 

Once in the door, the man pushed me against his side wall and began groping me. We kissed and his hands moved down my entire body. Something in me felt at home. My body tingled and my sex flooded out. In that moment, I felt what I had always felt during times like these: absolute promise.

As he licked at my body, I looked around the apartment, admiring his success, his lux lifestyle. I admired everything that he had achieved in his short life. I then thought of my apartment, the one that had so very recently been co-occupied by a man that I really didn’t know much about. A man that had been using me for my money, my alcohol, my clothes, my cigarettes.

My bed, my couch, my Madonna albums.

My coffee.

I looked to the kitchen with its true Granite countertops and I spotted the machine. A cup remained. I stopped the man as he began to unbuckle my belt.

I lifted his face to mine and kissed him once. I asked if we could have coffee. He tried to hide it, but I saw his look of pessimism. I saw the eyes roll ever so briefly. He turned his head around to his perfect, clean, and precise kitchen and said I suppose. I grabbed his hand.

I opened his fridge and all that was in there was a bottle of champagne, a twelve pack of Evian, a bottle of ranch dressing, and a take-out box. I suggested that he must not cook often. He laughed and said never, that he was too busy for that bullshit. I grunted and said that Remi and I have also been living on take-out lately. He man stopped pouring the water into the machine and put the pot down. The pot rang louder than I had expected. He asked me who this Remi person truly was. I lifted my head back and rolled my eyes. I laughed a little and said that he was just this guy who had been rooming with me.

Instant guilt. Not so much for my corruption of this moment, but now it was for Remi. Where was he? Was he on the streets? Was he back at the club, asking the men about the last time they had sex? I thought of Remi as a young child in his room, listening to his sister’s Madonna albums. I thought of his parents drunk and fighting in the other room. I thought of Remi dreaming, dreaming of a better tomorrow, of a life where he could actually branch out and be strong and be proud. I thought of his loneliness, his questioning and curiosity.

The man returned to pouring the water into the machine and felt thankful for the fact that, soon enough, we’d be able to share something—a cup of simple coffee. The machine tricked and kissed me, kissed me hard, shoved his tongue into my mouth and I shoved mine into his. He grabbed my semi-hard dick and said that it seemed I was hung.

I muttered that I was and then I touched his.

Before the coffee finished, I was bent over, staring out his window at the vacant street. As he fucked me without a condom, I thought of that first night on my rooftop and I thought about how nice it would be to be up there again, sharing thoughts and reminiscing with Remi Zarling. I swear that as I was being pounded and being told that I was a little bitch, a tear flickered out of my eye. And it wasn’t out of pain. No, anal sex didn’t make me scream anymore. I had been pounded like this plenty times before, before, before. A tear flickered, because this wasn’t really what I wanted in the end.

The man came in my asshole and, after he did so, he pulled out and grabbed my dick, which was soft. So soft. I felt embarrassed. He asked if I had cum and I told him that sometimes I just came from my asshole, which was a lie, but something I had read about during my scholarly research.

He grabbed for his pants and I grabbed for mine. I offered an awkward stare and asked about that coffee. He told me that he had to get up early and I thought how ridiculous it was that that was still being used as an excuse. How all this space was too little for my body to occupy for just the night. But a break. A break I did feel. I still recognized how nice it would be to be in my own bed. I’d drink another glass of wine and I’d smoke another cigarette. And maybe, just maybe Remi Zarling would be there to share the time, to take me away from the reality of this situation that I benefitted from just as much as Remi had.

 

 

Chapter 6:

 

I keyed open the door, waiting and hoping for only the briefest of an immediate signal. Maybe Madonna’s third would be playing. Maybe I’d be smelling the morning coffee. Maybe he’d be there, waiting for me. Waiting with a hug.

I gently pushed the door and was only welcomed by darkness. I thought how there was still hope. Still, I held on.

As I pushed the switches on and my old lamps came to life, I saw nothing, though. He wasn’t even seated on the fire escape. Remi Zarling was gone and so was something in me.

On my bed, I smoked the cigarette and sipped at the glass of wine. I tried real hard not to think of the businessman. The businessman, Greg. I tried not to think of the vacancy he had left and how all these things Remi had been preaching also had their downfall. In this life, you couldn’t just go out and be a whore forever. You couldn’t retain yourself solely on the basis of backrooms and paired bathroom visits, on fucking in front of your friend in his apartment.

There would always be a lack of love in that. And certainly Grindr wouldn’t solve the issue. Surely Grindr was no solution at all. But then how would that love be found?

I stopped thinking. During my younger years, I had trained myself so well the art of stopping all thought.

I put the cigarette out and took down the remainder of the wine. I turned the lamp off and hoped to God I would sleep.

And I didn’t.

I didn’t because I was waiting for his return. I was waiting for the pot of coffee. I was waiting for him to ask if he could wear my purple pair of slinky underwear today.

 

I walked into the English department office and was greeted by the perky secretary with the large breasts. In front of her sat a dish of those hard caramels. She looked at me with a look of astonishment and I said hi Teri. She shook her head and said that Robin’s been a bad, bad boy. I looked to my shoes and said that I’ve been preoccupied, that I have a valid excuse.

Teri looked to her scheduling book and said that Dan had scheduled office hours in twenty minutes. I thanked her and walked out of the office, to the flight of stairs, and in front of my office. I held a Styrofoam cup of the world’s worst coffee and, with my tongue, played with a hard caramel. I thought of nothing, just about how good the caramel tasted. How, lately, I had been eating very badly.

I spotted Dan across the hall, strolling as if he was on a mission. As he spotted me, his pace slowed. The closer he got, his look of disappointment became more and more clear and the shame I felt became more and more pronounced.

He threw up the hand not carrying the brief case and yelled what the fuck, Robin.

I shook my head and asked if I could have just a couple of minutes. Dan said nothing as he unlocked his office door, turned on the light, and threw his bag on the floor. Dan sat down at his desk. He told me to take a seat. And so I took a seat on the only semi-vacant chair, the one filled with a barrage of paperwork. As I sat, Dan nodded his head, if only to suggest that I was a real hot mess. He put his hands together and only said that it was my turn to speak. I told him that my mother in Ohio has been sick and that I had to fly back for the week to take care of her.

He told me that that was absolute bullshit and that if I was going to lie to him, I should consider leaving right now. I stopped him mid-diatribe and said that I am in the midst of a sexual revolution. Dan asked me what the fuck I was talking about and I said that he only needs to take a minute to listen to me. First, I started out by reinforcing the fact that the two of us were both gay academics who were still relying on the techniques and means of study used only by those who had come before us. I asked him why English academia was such a bore, why research was the only just way of making strides in the study. I asked him about personal experience. I asked him about creative writing. I asked him about political writings, about essays that didn’t rely on prior research, but only by our own discoveries, by our own justifications, opinions, and observations. I said I was bored. That I was only doing all of this so I could get my Ph.D. and shake the entire system the way it needs to be shaken.

Dan tried to say that unfortunately that was not the way things worked right now. I replied by telling him, once again, that I was in the midst of a new sexual revolution.

I asked him why everything had to change so drastically after the whole AIDS epidemic hit so hard. Dan told me that I knew the answer to that question, that I knew that men were dropping like flies, that sex had to stop—before we at least found some answers. That no longer could a sexual revolution take place. He said that this is what happens when such detriment comes upon a community, when a president can’t even say the word, can’t even fund research. When a mayor remains in the dark and closeted, allowing us all to believe that we are less than, less than his efforts, which actually had a whole shitload of a lot to do with his life.

I was looking at my feet, but when I looked up, I saw a face spotted with tears. Red and spotted with tears. I calmly told him that we have some answers now. That that kind of a rush needn’t exist anymore. That, even if we are only a population of men that is living as a result of all the shit that has come before us, it didn’t mean we couldn’t start over. That there isn’t still life to be lived. I made clear that there is always a life to be lived, always a way to start over fresh and new as new people, newly subscribed to a life that has something new to preach.

I asked him who we had preaching, who we had as out gay spokespeople.

Dan listed a few names and I offered rebuttals. I told him that those people were academics, academics that had lived during the times of Post-Stonewall, of AIDS.

I told him that I was the new spokesperson. That I didn’t care anymore about A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. I only cared about being the greatest homosexual I could be. And I said that I could only be that by preaching a new lifestyle,

Dan modestly asked how.

I stood, threw my hands in the air and said that it’s time to party. I told him to look at all of the successes in gay rights. I asked where the celebration was. I said that it’s time to drink and smoke and come out and talk about our sex lives, to have hot sex, to have as much hot sex as we could with as many men as possible. I told him I wanted to write books. I wanted people to know that we are not just the remnants of all the greats before us, but that we are new and improved and better than ever and that we hardly ever take a breath to let people know this. We are a new population of men. We need to make that known. That we are better than all of those before us.

I asked Dan when was the last time he got laid and he told me to please stop. I asked him again. And he told me that I could leave now.

I told him to go fuck the institution that binds us. It’s time to start again. It’s time to start over. It’s time to relive that time after Stonewall.

Dan shouted I wasn’t even making a valid point anymore and I simply reiterated that I wanted to write. I wanted to write music. I wanted to write poetry and books, telling the truth, telling the truth of this lifestyle. Of what still binds us and how we can avoid that. I told him that it’s time for sex. It’s time for a party. A big ole coming out party. It’s time for love! Love! Love! Motherfucking love!

I sat my ass back down on top of all of Dan’s documents. He asked me if I was done now. And I said one more thing. I said I wanted to become a painter too. I wanted to paint dicks and balls. I wanted to paint a big pin cock cumming all over someone’s face.

I wanted to paint love.

It’s all about love.

Once again, Dan asked me if I was done and I said that now I was.

He stood, put out his hand, and thanked me for the time with the university.

I shook back and left the room. As I pranced down the hallway, I threw the arm holding the empty Styrofoam cup into the air and pitched the thing into the air. It hit one of the overhead lights and I laughed too loudly.

I ran to the flight of stairs and continued running, running, running until I reached my shithole Honda Civic and drove back to my complex, blasting Garbage’s second album the entire way.

Once home, I exited my car and walked slowly up the flight of stairs to my door. I hoped once more that maybe Madonna’s third would be playing, but, no, it was not. It hit me once more that he was really gone.

The Aquarium (Chapter 4), Alan Semrow

Standard

Chapter 4:

I yelled across the room and got his attention. Remi leaned across the bar and, in a childish voice, exclaimed something about my freshly being awake. I didn’t say much of anything in response.

Remi poured my coffee, stepped out of the kitchen, and approached my bed with both his cup and mine. I made a mental note about how he was wearing clothes and, therefore, presenting a stark comparison between the present and his activities the night before. He sat across from me on the bed with his legs in an even pretzel. Remi looked into my eyes and I made brief eye contact and grabbed the cup from him. I took a sip from and looked back at him. He was smiling. Remi asked if I had slept well. I lied and said I did.

Remi shook his head at me and said that I have bags under my eyes and that we should probably moisturize them today. I told him that that would be fine or he could go pick up a cucumber if he liked.

I pictured him, standing across the room, his cute ass, his large cock, jacking off, panting, letting go right into his hand. I wondered how his cum tasted, if it tasted any differently than mine. If all that smoking and drinking had affected the taste of his semen. I wondered if he had washed his hands.

I leaned over to my bed stand and grabbed a fresh pack of cigarettes. I hit the bottom of the pack a few times and propped it open. I grabbed my lighter and sniffed at the unlit cigarette. I thought about how it smelled good. I lit and blew out of spiral of smoke in Remi’s direction.

He told me that he was thinking of going out tonight. I shrugged and said that this didn’t come as too much of a surprise to me.

Like a child, Remi bounced a few times on the bed and told me to please lighten up, just for today. I fake yawned and said that I was tired. Remi narrowed his eyebrows and said that he thought I slept well and I replied and told him that he just said I had to moisturize. Remi shrugged and looked away to the cherry wood floor. He said that I was acting strange.

I removed myself from the bed and walked into the kitchen. I flicked the ash from my cigarette into the sink and grabbed the ashtray packed full of Remi’s butts.

For a moment, I thought of Remi’s pert ass.

 

At the club, Remi and I played heads or tails. For a time, Remi led the board five to none. For a time, neither of us received even the slightest of eye contact. However, upon turning ourselves toward the back of the room, we noticed that plenty enough men were in fact interested. They looked from the corner of their eyes. They smiled and found their light. I wondered which one of us they liked more. I wonder if, in all actuality, I was a beautiful person.

Truth was, enough men had told that, yes, I was indeed an attractive man. Enough had told me this and continued to tell me this until the moment after they came all over my face or in my mouth. They stop the compliments and then I’d lose all the confidence that I had so beautifully built up in my own head. I wondered if all they had told me were lies, if they only said these things until they got precisely what they wished for.

Remi thumbed at my left knuckle and told me that I still hadn’t answered his question, that I had so tragically avoided it. I thought back and I knew.

For a moment, I pretended that I didn’t understand what he was talking about and I told him that I had absolutely no clue what he was saying. In return, Remi simply said I was a bad liar. I huffed and said that, yes, yes, yes, once upon a time I had a few boyfriends. A few boyfriends that would last a few months, break my heart, force me to reinvest in everything I had known before, which only ever led me onto some new guy who would cause the same predicaments.

Remi responded by saying, so nothing serious and I told him that he was full of shit. That I thought I was in love a few times. Remi laughed the big laugh and said that we get deceived when it comes to love and shit. Love doesn’t always mean love.

I now know what he meant by that.

I told him, look, none of the guys moved in. That I wished they would have, but they never did. I saw them every weekend or so; we banged, spent some time together and parted, reentering the world to fulfill our responsibilities not as gay men, but as people. I told him that, yes, there was a difference.

Remi knew. He said he knew.

He told me that it sounded as if I was more invested than these men were and, in response, I told him to fuck off, because these men cared for me too. Remi shrugged his nice shoulders and said that that might be true, but…

And then I told him to just stop.

Remi asked heads or tails and, on a whim, I said heads. The gay man entered the bar and stared me right into the eyes and grinned. Butterflies shot through my entire body and I felt a sharp tingle similar to that of a nice, long, well-deserved orgasm. I couldn’t help but smile back and then look down to my lap.

Remi turned to me and asked why the fuck I had just done that, just looked down when a guy was so clearly interested. Ashamed, I shook my head as Remi turned toward the back of the room. The man was still looking in our direction. Remi told me to contain myself, before I lost my intrigue. I asked if I looked good. He laughed only once and told me that we didn’t just come out, that such lines of questioning were not welcome here.

Once again, Remi turned his gaze to the back of the room and then back at me.

Ten minutes later, I was left alone at the front of the door, playing heads or tails with my drunken self, as Remi stood in the back of the bar, talking to the guy that had fucked me with his eyes.

 

Back at my place, Remi stood in front of me and the new guy, Chris, wearing only my orange and red, silky briefs. All three of us were fairly inebriated by this point and Madonna’s second album, Like a Virgin, was beginning.

Remi held up his hands and said that we’re going to talk about “Material Girl” for a moment. I looked to Chris, who was smiling without teeth. I told Remi to go on and he said that, now, it’s important to understand that she’s not being for real here. She’s mocking material culture. Madonna! A material girl? In your dreams. He said that she’s a nitty gritty woman. A WO-MAN! I clapped a few times and he thanked me. Continuing on, Remi said that she only wrote the song to make a statement on material culture and, boy, was it a wise one. There’s stuff to be left up to the imagination here and we gay men must understand that this might have been the most important artistic statement that she had made since the release of 1983’s Madonna.

I interrupted and told him to take a look at the liner notes.

He said silence slave!

And I said, no, no, Madonna didn’t even write this track.

Remi looked down at the CD case and then back at me. He pointed a drunken finger at me and then skipped onto the next song, “Angel.” He said, sweet isn’t it and skipped forward onto “Like a Virgin.” Remi said that it’s so clear she’s not a virgin and I thought to myself that this isn’t news to anyone at all, that maybe Mr. Remi Zarling as music critic is as invalid as Britney Spears is as the next Madonna.

She’s brand new! That’s what Remi said. She’s found love and she feels so new. Remi eyed me and continued to say that some scholars have said that this song hasn’t aged very well, but that he thinks it sounds as new as brand. He gulped from his glass of wine and skipped past “Over and Over” and onto “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” Remi said that we can’t stay on this song too long, because this ballad compares nothing to the later ballads. However, it must be said that it does signal a beginning. Remi told us that her voice isn’t there yet, but the sentiment is. The lyrics are. That it has a deserved spot on her later collection, Something to Remember. Remi skipped onto “Dress You Up.” He put his hands in the air again and I looked to Chris who seemed to be seriously interested in the little show Remi was offering. I didn’t understand how someone could take this seriously and only figured Chris to be another stupid, ignorant faggot from the Midwest.

Remi said that he hated the “Dress You Up” and skipped onto the next, the next, the next. On this addition, “Into the Groove” was listed as a bonus track. It played as Remi exclaimed in joy, as if this was only the greatest of surprises. He told Chris and I that this is the first great Madonna single. He shut the machine off, walked into the kitchen, grabbed a cigarette from my pack, lit it, grabbed the wine bottle and walked into the living room. He said that Like a Virgin was surely responsible for proving her critics wrong, for signaling a great forthcoming career. However, he said he forgot how much he hated the fucking album, that the only good tracks were the singles and “Angel” was only mediocre at that. Remi poured the remnants of the bottle into our three glasses and said thank God for co-writers! He threw himself down onto the couch and wrapped an arm around Chris. Chris turned to him and they kissed. The kissing soon turned to a make-out sessions and I thought about how desperately I wished Remi hadn’t gone through the entire album yet. I wished I had fallen asleep before “into the Groove” had begun.

I tried my best to steady up from the couch, but Remi pushed me back down. I struggled past him again and, as he continued pursuing Chris’s face, directed me back onto the couch with his hands, but this time with more pressure. The aggression made the blood flow into my cock. I felt myself growing harder and harder and harder. I tingled. I recognized how inappropriate this all was. There was danger. There was sin.

Chris started rubbing Remi’s cock and Remi bellowed, telling Chris that felt real, real nice. They threw each other’s shirts off and kissed more and more and more. I felt so light. I thought I might faint.

As Chris unbuckled the belt Remi was wear, I beat past Remi’s arm, and scooted off the couch. I walked over to the kitchen and listened with a close ear. I heard pleasure. I heard passion. I looked and saw that Remi was now fully nude, sitting on my couch as Chris went crazy on his cock. I watched Chris as he spit it out of his mouth and muttered that he’s been wanting to do this all night. Remi pushed his head back down and looked over at me. He winked and I looked away. I walked past the sofa to my bed and I opened my laptop. I gazed at a blank word document and thought of putting my earphones in and maybe watching a little porn. I instead only stared at the blank document, pretending to read as I listened, listened very, very carefully. I wanted to hear what Remi said in bed. I wanted to hear all the things that he did and that he allowed to be done to him.

I put my hand in my pants and pressed down on my hard dick. I looked up. Chris was naked and standing in front of my album collection and Remi was kneeled in front of him, worshipping his cock with his mouth. He rubbed it and sucked it, rubbed it and sucked it. I looked back to my laptop and listened as Chris asked Remi if he liked sucking his cock. I looked up again and watched as Remi spanked Chris and told him in a yearning, vulnerable tone that this was the only cock for him. Chris asked Remi if he wanted to be fucked. Remi deep-throated Chris’s dick and said that, yes, he’d like to be fucked.

Remi walked to the sofa as Chris grabbed a condom from his jean pocket. Remi assumed the position and I looked down at the laptop and continued applying pressure on my dick. Chris rolled the condom on and said that he’s gonna fuck Remi’s hole like no other. Remi yelled out that yes, oh yes, yes, yes, Remi, I want you to fuck me! I’ve been such a bad, bad boy! Fuck my tight fucking hole, you fucker! You motherfucker fucker!

Chris muttered that his named isn’t Remi, Remi.

And Remi yelled out that he needs to shut the fuck up.

I looked up.

Remi slapped Chris lightly against his cheek and said that, in this moment, Chris’s name is Remi and Remi’s name is Chris.

Remi turned back to the sofa and looked downward. He grabbed a bottle of lube from the cushions of the sofa. I still to this day wonder where that bottle came from. Remi told Chris to apply a lot of lube. Chris did as told and started to enter Remi. As he did so, Remi looked me square into the eyes. He looked so sad, so vacant. I felt my entire body tingle as Remi mouthed out the words, baby, cum with me. It only took that for me to cum in my pants.

Remi’s face contorted as Chris entered him, entered him all the way. Remi screeched out something that sounded like: fuuufuuuRemifufaaaafuckkmotherfuuuu! And Chris fucked. Chris fucked Remi hard.

I watched Remi’s eyes as Chris went at Remi’s asshole, fucked his fucking tight ass. In that moment, Remi was in pain. Remi was in pleasure.

I removed my wet cock from my pants and continued rubbing. As Chris threw Remi onto his back and then fucked him in missionary, Remi yelled out, yes, fuck me Remi! He looked at me once again and I came, but even harder than the last time.

Remi sat Chris onto the sofa and lowered himself right on top of Chris’s dick and rode it. Remi threw his hands in the air and moaned, letting Chris know how great that fucking felt, how he wanted him to fuck him all fucking night. I gazed at the masterpiece, a scene I had never quite seen before. Remi on the stallion, riding for the rodeo. The couch bounced with the pair and the moans and grunts became more and more pronounced.

I grabbed my cock again and then Remi grabbed his. We gazed into each other. My mouth opened as Remi’s did the same, burgeoning with a wide, wide O. As Remi sprayed all over Chris’s bare torso, I let go once more onto my comforter. Chris followed, yelling, oh Chris, you motherfucker. I watched as the two naked men fell and collapsed onto each other.

With this, I began to hump my mattress, wanting only once more to reinforce what I had just witnessed. I thought of the O Remi had made with his gorgeous mouth. I thought of how he called Chris by his own name. I thought of the spanking and the slap, the fucker, the motherfucker, the fuck my hole. And I came once more. As I turned from my pillowed, I was welcomed by Remi, who was seated at my desk, totally naked, and smiling.

Chris had already gone.

I smiled back at him and then looked to my blankets which had been so heavily iced by my own sweet cum.

The Aquarium (Chapter 3), Alan Semrow

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Chapter 3:

 

In the morning, Remi was leaned against the stove drinking coffee. I asked him if he had saved any. We looked at the pot and back at each other. Evidently, he had left me one cup. I poured the remainder into my Pride mug and tasted.

It was lukewarm.

As I began to make a new, fresh pot, Remi asked if we would have to go to work one of these days. I told him that I was currently working for the English Department at the graduate school. He asked what I did there and I said I was hired to help with research. I, more or less, worked from home. He grinned and said nice gig.

I asked what the fuck he did when he wasn’t seeking men and he said that, sometimes, he worked and sometimes he had what he liked to call off periods. He told me that, at the present, he was having an off period. I asked him what the hell that meant and he said he was fired.

How did he pay his rent?

He provided no answer.

I asked him if he even had rent to pay and he told me that it didn’t really matter right now.

I stepped back and gave him a look as if to say that that’s not really how it works around here. I asked him if he actually had housing. Remi laughed and said that he lived in some shithole with four other girls. I asked him if I could see the place sometime and he said that he hadn’t really planned on returning.

As my time with Remi drew on, it began to appear more and more important that I ask if the hard questions, if only to protect my own ass. I asked Remi exactly what he did plan and he told me that he would be moving in here.

As I dumped the cold coffee from my Pride mug and traded it for the warm, I laughed at the guy. I said you are, are you? And he nodded, smiling at me, so incredibly sure of himself.

I tried to make clear that it actually costs a lot for me to live at the place and he told me that he didn’t really give a shit, that he had money and, even if he didn’t, he would still stay.

I said no and he motioned toward the door with his hand. I looked to where his hand pointed and then back at him. Very assured, he still retained his smug smile. I shrugged my shoulders and took a sip of coffee.

Remi asked me if I wanted him to leave. I told him that he couldn’t stay here without paying. With that, he walked toward the door, wiggled the handle and began to exit.

I shook my head and told him to stop being a dummy douchebag and to come back in here. Remi closed the door and walked back into the kitchen and poured himself another cup of coffee. He took a sip and looked at me and said that this is called codependence and that it should be avoided at all costs.

Now I understand what he meant, but I didn’t then.

Remi placed his hands on my shoulder and looked into my eyes. I smiled and asked him what he was doing. He said that I like him. I nodded my head away, looked to the ground, and rolled my eyes.

He said I really fuckin’ like him.

I called him a fool and told him to speak for himself and he only laughed and took his hands off of me. He offered me another sly look and told me that two people should usually have jobs. I tried to reiterate that I do in fact have a job and that I do actually have some things that I have to get done by the end of the week.

Remi stopped my rant with his hands, smiled, and shook his head. He told me to look at how I get so defensive. I said I wasn’t getting defensive and he said that I need to lighten up.

I looked to the window and he said that I must have an MA or something. I told him I did and was looking to go for my PH.D. Remi rolled those sweet eyes again and suggested that I was probably studying Queer Literature and Theory.

I said nothing and he laughed and said typical gay.

For a few brief moments, we didn’t say much of anything and then the silence ended. Remi opened his mouth again and said that I should probably quit my job. I said that I couldn’t, that I had bills to pay, debts that I owed. He told me to lighten up, that this year would be an important year. I asked him why and he only looked down at his bare feet, shaking his hips like an innocent choir girl.

I walked out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. I turned on the shower. I looked in the mirror, silently asking myself what the hell I was doing. I asked myself if this would ever be worth it. I asked if maybe knowing Remi was too much of a risk. I asked if my whole life thus far had only been informed by the fear of risk.

I undressed and, as I did so, Remi entered the bathroom and began to disrobe. I asked him what was he thinking and he said that we needn’t waste water. As we got into the shower, Remi told me that I had a nice dick. I replied, telling him that he had a big one too.

We showered and, by the end, both of our cocks were hard, erect like no tomorrow.

We dressed. For the second or third day in a row, Remi going to wear my clothes.

On the way to the liquor store, Remi asked me if I had ever had a boyfriend. I puffed out a string of air and told him to light me a cigarette.

He told me that smoking was bad for me and I told him that I’ve known men.

Remi laughed and told me that we’ve all known men. I tried to make it clear that I didn’t really want to talk about it by saying that, yes, I’ve known a few men.

Remi suggested that I would just hate to lose my intrigue by saying anymore and I told him that the air of mystery is something we gay men all strive for.

Remi asked if that’s what I’ve gotten out of my big, gay book collection. I said sure. Remi told me that that was not necessarily the truth, that a lot of the men he’s been on dates with have sat down and spilled their entire life stories.

I said you go on dates? Remi laughed and said not anymore, not after the last one.

I asked who the last one was and he told me that the last one was some guy who showed up fifteen minutes late, sat down, and asked him if he had ever had a boyfriend before and, if so, why they broke up. I laughed as Remi threw his hands up into the air. He said that never, ever should a gay man ask another gay man on the first fucking date about their loves.

It wasn’t the best. That was certain.

Remi shrugged and said that some men find it hard to comprehend simple, gay etiquette. He suggested that it’s from the lack of real role models. The black dudes grow up among black guys. They get where they stand in the world. Women, they usually have a mother. They get a sense of who they are, the place they are in as they grow up.

Gay men don’t.

Gay men grow up in a family that never even tells them that being gay might just be okay, it might just happen. The gay man grows up in a world where Mommy and Daddy tell him year after year after that all he has to do in this life is graduate high school, graduate college, find a job, get a house, and then marry a nice, young chick and have some little ones and a baby Shih Tzu on a leash. Because of the fallacy that is our upbringing, we grow with this hetero-mentality and, BOOM, we figure we’re gay and then, BOOM, we figure that we’re going to have to reconfigure everything we’ve ever learned. That we’re ultimately just going to have to raise ourselves and teach ourselves about this silly world.

Remi stopped our walk and faced me. Just like his did that morning, he placed both hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. He whispered that now we’re here.

Here. Doing what? I asked him what we’re doing here. Remi turned to the front of the liquor store and said that we’re here to buy four jugs of wine, a bottle of tequila, and a thing of margarita mix. We entered and picked up all of what Remi had just mentioned and I paid for it with my credit card.

That night, I sat in front of my laptop, gazing at one of our go-to databases at the university. I was in the midst of doing my research on A Single Man, when Remi spoke from across the room and told me that we should listen to Like a Virgin.

I shook my head and said not tonight.

Remi, clearly drunker than I, got up and walked over to the stereo. He muttered something that sounded like: how can you drink and work at the same time. And then he started to pick through my albums.

I yelled across the room and told him that I would be done in a couple of hours. In response, he said that in a couple of hours we both could be dead, shot in the face, stabbed in the neck. I asked if he would just let me concentrate for two more hours. He laughed and sat back down on the couch. I looked over at him and he was looking at me, anticipating the album. He said that I look sexy in my glasses and that I should wear them more often. I told him that that was all well and good and everything, but I’m not that kind of gay. Remi laughed and asked what the fuck kind of a gay I was then. I said I was too thin to wear glasses and continue to ooze sexuality. In response, Remi said nothing. I knew he knew I was right.

He suggested that we hit the gym soon. I asked him if he had a membership and he said no, but that I did. I told him that it usually didn’t work that way and then focused my attention back on the scholarly article. Remi asked what it was about and I said nothing. I said nothing for two hours. During that silent period of time, as I read, as I worked, I occasionally looked at him from the corner of my eye and, each time, I could make out that Remi was groping at his cock.

 

After exactly two hours, I stood and walked to Remi on the couch. With no expression at all, he was staring at the rack of albums across the room. I asked him what he was thinking about and he said nothing. I said that we could listen to Madonna now.

He said not right now.

I asked him again what exactly he was thinking of. He said he was only thinking of men.

What kind of men, I asked him.

And he said that he was thinking of the kind of men that would fuck him.

I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a cigarette from my pack on the counter. I lit and asked him what he meant by that and he said that he meant that he should probably get laid soon. I smoked my cigarette and said all the more to him. Remi simply rolled his eyes.

I walked back into the living room and sat down next to him. Nothing was stopping him from going and getting laid. I told him that nothing was stopping him. He said that it might be best if I just go to bed now.

I put my cigarette out in the orange ashtray next to us and headed to my bed without another word.

I didn’t sleep that night and, instead, only lied there waiting for Remi to join me.

He never did. No, at two in the morning, I looked over at my bedside clock and then perched myself up from my bed and watched him from the other side of the room. Remi stood in front of the wall of albums, stark naked, jacking off into his hand.

You don’t see things like that every day and so, when you do, you’re entire body goes numb. You feed into the temptation. The electricity of your soul digs right into your cock. And you touch it. You close your eyes, plop back down onto the pillow, and quietly masturbate to the mental picture that you’ll always remember.

After cumming in my pants, I must have fallen asleep, because the next time I saw the time it read seven o’clock. I propped myself up from the bed, only to spot Remi in the kitchen drinking his coffee.

The Aquarium (Chapter 2), Alan Semrow

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Chapter 2:

 

As the morning sun rose and stung my cheek, I felt Remy’s kiss on my lips, which frightened me before I realized what was happening. He whispered that he wanted me to spill and I asked him what he was talking about, that it was too early to talk.

He told me that he wanted to know my story and I said that soon enough he’ll read about it and find out that way. I said that he should probably let me go back to sleep.

Remi explained that it was seven in the morning and I said exactly.

I felt him stand and listened as he walked from the bed and into the kitchen, where he began rummaging around for something. I sat up slowly and yelled across the room. I asked him what in the fuck he thought he was doing.

He asked me if I had coffee. I said yes and placed the pillow over my ears.

At 7:15, I walked into the kitchen, where I found Remi standing, leaning against the counter. He had a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. As I entered the room, his eyes were already attached with my. He gazed and smiled suspiciously and I asked him if he was usually this chipper in the morning.

Remi jumped once, dripping some coffee on the linoleum. I tried to tell him to please not make a mess and he told me that today was the first day of the rest of our lives. I said alright and asked him why.

Remi put his cigarette out in my sink. I tried to say something about his doing that, but, before I could, he asked me if I had ever spent periods of my life brooding, thinking about the past, tearing myself apart by the seams. I said that I never had and he said that he had. That, once upon a time, he had killed his entire spirit by rehashing everything that had ever happened in his life.

He said he picked up negativity like a hand bag.

He said he thought of killing himself.

He said he had told himself day after day after day that it was time to start over, but he never really did. At least not for some time.

He paused and took a sip of coffee. Remi told me that eventually he did start over. That his life took a new turn and it really wasn’t about anything else, but making a promise, a decision, and sticking to it. Life could mean happiness and it would for him someday. He told me that he made it his absolute mission.

His eyes were beautiful in the morning. I shook my head and I said that it was too early for stuff like this. I took a step over to the coffee pot and found there to be nothing left. It didn’t make any sense. In disbelief, I asked what happened to all the fucking coffee.

I looked to his cup. There was nothing in it.

Remi smiled and said that he said he needs coffee in the morning.

I proceeded to brew another pot as Remi regaled me in his pursuit of transcendence and self-empowerment. He stated that after facing a great amount of guilt and shame and self-persecution in his life, he had no choice but to turn his own philosophy. However, he told me, it was not complete. There remained one final step and we would complete it together.

I sniffled a laugh and watched as the fresh coffee trickled into the pot.

 

A gay man walked into the bar as Remi and I played the game he had just come up with. We didn’t have a name for it, but what we did was we placed bets as gay men approached the door to the only gay establishment in all of downtown. As he neared the entrance, we called whether or not he would make eye contact with one of us or not. Most of the time, Remi bet that they wouldn’t and, mostly because I had no other option, I bet that they would. Most of the time, Remi won.

Remi called heads and I called tails. The man walked in and directed his oceans of blue eyes right into mine. I looked down, smiled coy, and looked to Remi, who muttered something into his cup. I asked what and he told me that it only means one thing when a gay man makes eye contact the moment they step into a bar. I suggested that it meant that they were horny. Remi sighed, as if to intimate that I was the most naïve, and said that it meant that they were of a certain age, alive and present during the AIDS epidemic and maybe even before that, during the sexual revolution. I said there was no way he was much older than us and then Remi reminded me that the only assured thing that every single gay man in the world is afraid of is losing his youth.

I took a closer look at the man. Certainly he had had some work done.

After gulping down the remainder of his margarita, Remi asked if I ever just sat a moment and thought that I might actually be beautiful. My laughter ensued and he remained straight-faced. He said what if. And I said that I think I know what he’s talking about, but he needn’t say more.

Naturally, Remi had a lot more to say to the topic.

He said that we’re so obsessed by male beauty and all we do all day is line ourselves up against all those shirtless, pantless Calvin Klein models, men that don’t even exist in real life, and allocate our weak spots. This entire line of commentary was not news at all to me, but, alas, Remi continued. Now, he told me, I probably went through a phase after coming out where I seriously questioned my validity as a gay man. That, on the daily, I thought, if only I was so beautiful. The one thing lacking in my life is the greatest looks.

He told me it’s bullshit, because we’re both actually incredibly good-looking men.

In this moment, all I felt was that I really wanted to fuck Remi.

He said that we poor gay men only think of ourselves as that—victims of a life that has led us astray. After coming out, though, our entire worlds open up to so many new possibilities—particularly the distinct possibility that we’ll get laid in the near future.

But where are our standards? Who is our standard?

We go through a period where we’ll fuck pretty much anyone. And then we find that we’re so totally not attracted to that type of person. That we can’t even cum without fantasies. Standards, he said, they’re a tricky thing, because they can’t be too high, or else we’ll only grow up to be aged nelly troll queens with a death wish.

He asked me when I made my standards higher. And I said it was after I got fucked too hard by some fat gay. In response, Remi told me that fat guys were nice, so long as they had a sense of humor. I made a mental note that his point just dismissed everything that he just gotten done telling me.

Another gay man entered the bar. This time, I called heads and he called tails. The man made eye contact with Remi. He whispered that he would so totally fuck him and I said I would too. The guy was cute, kind of a less cuter version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

I recalled the time I once had a foursome, how I’d do that again sometime. Remi simply said he once had a five-some.

He scanned the room and told me to look around and observe how none of the men are actually talking to each other, how they only appear interested in their fag hags or fag stags, when, in all actuality, their friends are the last thing on their mind. Remi said that no one here will get laid just because they came here. He wondered why they even kept coming.

It never used to be this way, not in the 70s. And this place never used to be the sole potential gay mating ground in all of downtown.

Remi told me that we’ll all go home and get online and hook up that way. That this place only stands as is a filler, a means of hope, but certainly no fairy godmother. We don’t talk to each other anymore and we don’t reach out as friends. Instead, we walk in and only eye the competition from across the bar. We only eye the suitable fish from the back, as we stand in line for the potty. And it’s terrible and it’s tragic and it’s depressing and yet we do nothing about it. We all just stand here and ask ourselves when just someone will come up to us and buy a drink. It doesn’t happens. We come lonely, we leave lonely and it’s all because we’re all afraid now. We’re living in a time Post-Stonewall, Post-AIDS, where the sexual revolution is only dripping it’s remnants upon us, where the whole mentality of the time isn’t even common knowledge to the vast majority of gay men.

Remi said it’s a shame, it’s a real fuckin shame.

He told me that we should get the fuck out of there.

 

Back at my place, Remi asked me if I had been serious when I told him my last lay was only a few nights ago. Oh the shame. The shame. I told him that I had only been lying and he said that it’s okay to lie in order to have your way with this life, but it’s never okay to lie about when your last lay was.

Particularly to your friends.

Friends. I think it was the first time he offered such a sentiment.

He asked me for a bottle of wine and we continued to drink. I put on an album by Fiona Apple and he told me to shut the fuck up and get out of town. Remi said that tonight was for Madonna, our matriarch.

He removed her debut from my wall of CDs and placed the disc into the stereo system. “Lucky Star” began. Remi stood in front of me as the high, ringing guitars and booming drum beats played away. He said that I should listen to him now. He told me that this, this is fluff. A fluffy little dance number about love, love, love. Remi said it’s not so much that it’s about love where he found fault, but it’s in the way the lyrics folded around each other. He laughed at himself and said that Madonna knew better, she knew more than what this feckless little girl singing this song knew. He asked me where the sex was.

And I suggested that maybe it was in “Borderline.”

Remi said that it was very good of me to say that.

Something in way you love me won’t let me be/I don’t want to be your prisoner so baby won’t you set me free.”

He laughed to himself. He said that now we were getting closer. This was her first feminist song and a good one at that. He told me that old Motown comes to mind, that this might be the most complex song on the whole fucking record.

He skipped forward to “Burning Up” and said that now we were introduced to her sex, but that it was a shitty song, a fluffy, fluffy song about sex.

Remi paused the number and refilled his glass of wine in the kitchen. He walked back to the stereo and looked me in the eyes. He pressed play and skipped past the remainder of “Burning Up.” “I Know It” began and he skipped it. “Holiday” began and he started to dance as if he had been doing it all his life. Thesewere his own moves. I pictured unhappy Remi Zarling, in his bedroom as a young child, listening to his sister’s Madonna album, pressing repeat every time “Holiday” ended. I pictured his parents drunk and fighting in the kitchen. Remi closed his eyes and stared to the ceiling and said cutesy dance number.

He loved it. I knew that. I smiled because I knew he loved it.

After the song ended, he skipped past the next two numbers to “Everybody.” When he realized it was in fact “Everybody,” he turned the entire system off and stared at me for a moment. He said that all those critics say that this is a pop masterpiece. He laughed and said that it’s far from that. Remi put his arms in the air and said he knows that Janet Jackson and Debbie Gibson followed as a result, but questioned whether that was a good fucking thing. Remi breathed out a sigh of air and said that this was only the beginning. He sat next to me again on the sofa. He placed he arm around my back and made me feel like his boyfriend. I took my glass of wine and gulped the remainder. I laughed and then he laughed at himself.

I asked him if we should put on a Cher record next and he said fuck no, she doesn’t write her own fucking songs. I explained that Diana Ross & The Supremes didn’t either. Neither did Dusty Springfield. And he told me to shut the fuck up. And so I shut the fuck up.

Remi rested his head against my shoulder and I asked him if he was telling the truth when he said that only a few nights ago he had gotten laid. He grumbled something that I only understood as here we go and said that he had in fact been telling the truth, that I should thank him very fucking much.

I asked what happened and he said the same old shit. A hot guy messaged him on Grindr and asked if they could meet up. Remi said that he obliged and let the guy come over. Remi opened the door, the guy pounced in, pushed Remi against the wall, made out with him, bent him over, and fucked him. He came on his back, pulled up his pants, and left.

I quickly felt what my eyes felt, sad for Remi. Truth is, in that moment, I knew Remi was just as vulnerable as I had always been. Truth is, the guy who had come over and fucked him hard against the wall was just as vulnerable as we were.

I continued looking at Remi. Remi, who was working hard to make me see that he was stronger than all of that, but, for once, he was failing his transcendence. He looked away from me and said that it was the night he decided he didn’t want it to be like this anymore. I placed my hand on his and asked him what he wanted it to be like. Remi took his hand away and said that he wanted it to be the way it used to be and I wondered if that was truly any better. He said he wanted to go to Fire Island, but I knew the island had already burned.

We dozed off.

In the middle of the night, I woke and found myself on top of him, wrapped around him like a woven blanked.