I took a small sip of my shot as a smile spread across my face. Heath motioned to a guy in the middle of the floor with piercings dangling from his ears and a stud in his brow. A tattoo snaked around his forearm of some unoriginal tribal print that accentuated the veins webbing underneath his thin skin. A cocky smirk stained his face as he danced in the middle of the club with an essence of allure and dominance. His fingers laced through his black hair as his tawny eyes scanned the club.
Heath motioned with big hands, excitement forcing him to take in rugged gasps. “You won’t believe it. People are actually talking to me, and they are okay. They’re great!”
I threw back the shot and contorted my face, spinning my bar stool back to the dance floor. “Damn, that’s strong.”
“Anyway, that one guy—you know the one. He’s really nice and talked to me for a little bit. He’s in a band as the guitarist—more of a night gig after his job as a chemical engineer. His name is Zane, and stuff. And then—“
“Bartender, could I have another one?” I motioned to the empty glass at my left elbow and placed some bills on the bar.
He sauntered over in his leather vest and chaps over his blue jeans and naked chest and grabbed my glass, quickly pouring something clear and then something blue into my glass. “Sure thing, girlfriend,” he squealed. He pounded the glass on the bar and went back to flirting with a couple guys across the bar from me—obviously college students.
“He was just talking about all of this stuff. And science! You would love him—he knows all about science and that shit.”
“Whoa, Heath, take a freaking breath,” I said before shooting back the vile, burning liquid.
He stared at me silently for a couple moments and saw me signal for another Summer Twilight. This time the bartender gave me a taller glass for the same price, calling me “sweetie” before shuffling back to his other customers. I was lucky they didn’t check licenses in the Tavern, and even if they did, what could I give them? The license I lost? The doorman just let us in without a mention of Heath’s baby-face that began to get an edge as his seventeenth birthday passed or my ridiculous lack of height. My mind wandered a moment as I sipped at the fluorescent drink that tickled my throat and then my insides.
“I’m sorry I took you here. You’re probably bored out of your mind,” Heath apologized sincerely.
I shot a glance to him and corrected, “I’ve always wanted to go to a gay bar. Plus, I’m your wingman. Who are we shooting for?” I shoved my elbow into his ribcage as an ecstatic smile crept across his face.
I nodded. “I’ve never been to a club, and a gay bar is the best kind. No creepy guys hitting on me, just a few guys commenting on my t-shirt and shoes. This place is great.” I guess it wasn’t appropriate to wear a My Chemical Romance shirt and flats. I didn’t know what to wear to a club. Heath managed to wear some khakis and a nice shirt. We both stuck out fairly easily—amateur clubbers at the age of seventeen.
I held my hand to my heart. “Oath.”
“Do you mind if I cut in?”
Our eyes swept to the slim, muscular figure of Zane standing just above us with a slight smirk settling his angular, trim features. A long nose sat between two almond-shaped eyes under strong eyebrows. His pink tongue slid across his thin lips as he turned his gaze from me to Heath.
Heath’s eyes met mine, begging for me to let him go.
“Yeah, go ahead and take my boyfriend,” I joked.
The man smiled and nodded towards Heath. “You’ve got good taste.”
Heath blushed furiously.
Zane must have known the spell he was casting on Heath as he observed him so tediously through the corners of his eyes. His fingers fell to his chin as he leaned against the bar and offered to get Heath a drink.
“Oh, I’m driving after this,” Heath confessed.
Zane laughed, “Oh shit, I can’t get you drunk, huh?”
Heath nodded to me and said, “Well, she’s already half there, so you can get one person drunk tonight.”
I shrugged. “I’m trashed.”
“Trashed enough to let me dance with him?”
Heath chuckled as the man’s hand fell on his forearm, pulling him onto the dance floor. He weaved in between couples and singles dancing in groups to a promiscuous song that held a vapid beat. The club must have noticed and quickly searched for an upbeat hip hop song that many men recognized and then began to sway and jump to the rhythm.
Heath’s eyes nailed into Zane innocently, mesmerized by someone who accepted him for who he was, astonished by the way he fit in for once. His hips swayed lightly, and then Zane’s hand wrapped around his waist, pulling him close to his body. Their bodies tangled as the beat progressively beefed up. Before long, one couldn’t determine whose appendages were whose.
I tentatively watched, anxiety beginning to snake into my chest as I watched Zane. My gut ached, and I wondered if I needed to puke.
“Whatcha doing here tonight, sweetheart?”
I turned back to a guy wearing a college shirt from the college down the way. His blonde hair was slicked back by an elastic, thin headband. His jeans fit close to the skin, a few holes unveiling the mystery of his porcelain legs. His blue eyes seemed sincere and inquisitive. He seemed like a good mistake to have.
I dryly answered while turning back to the dance floor, hoping to deter him, “Wingman for my best friend.”
I didn’t answer.
“I’m here with my friends, but you know, I’m kind of into girls, too. You know? Best of both worlds.”
I didn’t answer. I considered all of the things we could do so I could forget Heath’s lack of interest in me. Hell, I could make him jealous, but I couldn’t bring myself to open up to anyone. I couldn’t become someone else’s. I was manacled to Heath, but he could somehow ignore this weight bound to him.
“You and I could go somewhere a little more private to talk.”
“You can go somewhere a little more private to go fuck yourself,” I hissed.
And then my heart exploded.
Zane leaned in and whispered something in Heath’s ear, and Heath chortled politely. And then Zane’s slender hands wrapped around Heath’s neck and pulled his face to his. Their lips locked, and then Zane rested his hands on Heath’s back.
My chest ached as the breath swept away from my lungs.
Heath wrapped his arm around Zane’s neck, pulling him closer. They swayed to a melody that was solely theirs—silent to outsiders. They were isolated in their own world, and I wondered if that was what love was supposed to look like.
I swallowed my drink wholly, jealousy threatening my sanity. I turned back to the dance floor after chugging down the anti-freeze, and Heath and Zane were gone. My heart pounded in my chest, and I rushed to the bathroom.
I stormed into the men’s restroom. Two men standing by the urinals turned and stared at me, putting themselves away quickly. I walked down the line of stalls and glanced under each one to hopefully see two pair of feet. The first and third were empty with the second occupied by someone—two feet.
I ventured out of the restroom and wandered to the parking lot. My feet slid across the asphalt, and then I finally noticed the liquor attacking my insides. My vision swayed, and then I stumbled into the side of Heath’s Jeep. I turned, my back resting on the cool metal, and slid down the side slowly. My butt scraped against the asphalt as I pulled my knees to my chest, wrapping my arms around my legs, waiting for my friend.
“Get in the car.”
I shot to my feet as Heath threw open his driver side door and slipped into his Jeep. I gulped, “Wait, what happened? Heath?”
He revved the engine to life.
I pulled myself inside the car and buckled up just before the wheels began to rotate and hiss. He whipped out of his parking spot and down the little road before hitting the major strip. My hands gripped the door as I tried to maintain my drunkenness to a level that wouldn’t promote vomiting.
Heath’s number one rule: do not vomit in the Shaggin’ Wagon.
I don’t know why he called his car that—we both knew he was getting absolutely no action in that thing. At least, I didn’t think so.
He was silent as we passed by the major strip and went back into county roads.
I leaned forward, trying to meet his eyes. “Heath, what happened?”
And then I noticed his tear-stained, deflated cheeks. His jaw clenched as he evaded my eyes. He twisted his chin to stare out his side window to deflect my gaze.
He held back a sob and then released a resigned sigh. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
He shook his head fervently. “I’m an idiot.” He whipped the car into a drive I didn’t recognize and gunned the engine as hard as he could. The wheels squealed against the gravel as the rocks collided into the bottom of the car. He needed to lift it if he wanted to continue to recklessly drive like this.
“Heath, what happened?” I finally whispered.
The car lurched to a stop abruptly, forcing me to fall forward into my lap, catching myself on the dashboard before colliding into it. I sat back and turned back to my friend, and he buried his face in his hands like a child.
“Heath, it is okay,” I cooed.
He shook his head and pulled away from his hands. He confessed, “I’m a piece of shit. I’m a piece of shit, Devin.”
I combed through his hair gently, pulling the smooth tendrils away from his alabaster face. “No, you’re not.”
“I am,” he whimpered, “I am.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“No, no, I’m a piece of shit.”
He froze from his mantra and turned to me.
“Just tell me, okay? I can’t fix it if I don’t know what’s going on.”
His green eyes wetted as he met my eyes. He heaved, “We were just talking, and then he kissed me. I thought he really liked me. I mean, I had just met him, but I thought he was interested.”
He paused as he turned to the front of the car, his fingers pulling through his scalp.
“He said we should go outside, just so we could talk, you know? He wanted to talk and to ‘get to know each other’—” he used air quotes—“and then we walked a couple laps around the place. He asked where I was from, and I told him. And he asked what school I attended, and I lied to keep us from getting kicked out. He just kept asking all of these questions, normal questions, and I felt fine.
“We just started kissing, and it was really hot. Like, we were both getting into it. And his hand… he slid it down the back of my pants, and I didn’t think anything of it. I mean, we were just making out.
“And then he wanted to get into the back of his car, and I said, ‘No.’ I don’t know why because I should have just done it, you know, so he would like me. I should have just let him do whatever so he would like me. And when I said, ‘No,’ he freaked out. He got really frustrated and slammed me against a car and… and… you know, I should have just got in the back of his car.”
I furrowed my brow, and my chest tightened. “Did he hurt you?”
“I mean, he just pushed me and called me some names.”
I cocked a brow.
“He didn’t touch me, I swear to God,” he resignedly sighed. “I just, I just should have done it. I should have just went ahead and done whatever he wanted.”
I sat back in my chair and stared at the horizon. It was only about two in the morning. The Tavern’s last call was at three from what I heard from the bartender. “Take me back to the Tavern.”
“What? No, I just want to go home, Devin. Tonight’s been hell.”
“I forgot my wallet.” My fingers slipped into my front pocket, rubbing the corner of the worn fabric, and pulled out my wallet, silently tossing it to the floor.
“Jesus, Devin, why do you do this to me?”
And we went back to the club after determining how lost we were approximately fifty different times in the trip. In the midst of the stress, neither of us decided to keep track of turns or roads we travelled down. We were too busy focusing on the incident. Time began to pucker the wound around Heath’s heart as he smiled as I tried to read the signs without my glasses—the night-blind bat. We rolled up to the club, and Heath’s eyes scoured the parking lot. His brow peeked, and I knew Zane’s car was still there.
I rubbed my hands together and popped my joints against the inside of my palm. Thoughts fluttered across my mind, debating whether what I was about to do was truly necessary, but I focused on Heath instead of the consequences. “You going to come in with me?”
He exhaled, “Make it quick. I don’t want to see him.”
I nodded, and we strolled into the club furtively, foregoing paying as the doorman dealt with two men arguing over where they parked. My eyes scoured the many different faces across the room to find Zane, but I couldn’t find him. I wandered to the bar and sat down in my seat. The bartender immediately hustled to me and asked, “What can I do for you, sweetheart? Another Summer Twilight?”
“No, but have you seen my wallet?”
“Hun, I thought you put it in your pocket.”
“Oh, I’ll see if it shows up.” He turned away from me and began shifting through the bottles, looking for the wallet amidst the bottles. Guilt nibbled at me as the bartender searched for the lie.
And then I heard the raspy voice.
“Came back for more, Heath?”
I whipped around to see Heath nose-to-nose with Zane. Heath hissed, “Back the fuck up, Zane.”
Zane took a step back and smiled jovially. He slowly clapped his hands, causing the club to stop what it was doing and turn to see the extravaganza next to the bar. “Everybody, we’ve got ourselves a full-blown faggot.”
An echo of boos came across the club.
I took to my feet and marched beside Heath, grabbing his forearm, pulling him away from Zane. I didn’t need him to get arrested for throwing punches. Heath didn’t answer but pushed me off of his arm deliberately. “Dev, get back in the car.”
Zane sighed. “Too bad you don’t suck dick. That pretty little mouth of yours would have looked even cuter with my cum dripping down your chin.”
I turned to Heath, and I saw his eyes dart away, ashamed and embarrassed. “Heath, let’s go.”
“I bet she sucks your dick all the time. She looks like a desperate slut. Maybe she can teach you a few things. I’ve heard she gets around—the Sebold kid? Yeah, big whore. Probably loose as—“
Heath roared, “Don’t you dare say that!” His arm shielded me away from Zane fiercely as he bared his teeth like a vicious animal. I pushed against his arm, trying to keep an eye on Zane.
“I’m sure your daddy would love to hear where you’ve been tonight, Heath. I’m sure he would appreciate knowing his kid was at a gay bar. Daddy would love to know his fairy came out to play with the big boys. Doesn’t have the balls to commit to being gay but too queer to ever pass off as straight. Heath is just a cunt dressed up.”
I remember strong arms forcing me out of the club, shoving me on my ass across the asphalt. Heath walked out after me, kneeling down beside me. “What the hell did you do?!” he scolded.
I glanced down at my knuckles on my right hand—bloodied and bruised. I absorbed all of the brutality and disintegration of my knuckles quietly, unsure of what to say or do. “What happened?”
Heath glanced over his shoulder and then pulled me onto my feet. “I’ll tell you in the car.” We moved silently to his car and sat inside it for a few minutes without a word breathed. He turned to me and gave me a toothy grin. He admitted, “You kicked Zane’s ass.”
“He called me all those things, and you ripped out from behind my arm and threatened to castrate him. He wasn’t too scared, waving away security, thinking you wouldn’t hit him. He continued to defame our names and stupid things like that, and you were fine. He called me a ‘mother-fucking cock-sucker’ after the other words, and you wouldn’t have any of it. You threatened to rip of his junk again, and he didn’t believe you.
“I was kind of embarrassed at first because here you were fighting my fight. He called you my bitch, and only I can say that. You can’t say that about just anyone. By the way, you still are my bitch, but he was just saying you were there to fight my fights and be the cock-block of the night.
“He continued with the rant, and then you just punched him in mid-sentence. I think you got five shots in before security kicked you out. We’ll have to find a new club.”
I turned back to my blackening knuckles, gently clenching my hand into a fist to make sure my hand wasn’t broken. “I’m sorry.”
“So what? He deserved it.”
“He tried to get you to have sex with him, didn’t he?”
He froze. He murmured, “‘I cut you out because I couldn’t stand being a passing fancy. Before I give my body, I must give my thoughts, my mind, my dreams. And you weren’t having any of those.’” Sylvia Plath.
“That’s why I had to go back there.” I leaned forward and picked up my wallet. I tossed it on the dashboard, and Heath’s eyes fell to the fading fabric with a broken zipper filled with a couple singles and quarters. “I wanted to get him back.”
Heath punched me in the shoulder. “What the hell is wrong with you? You could have gotten the crap beat out of you. I could have gotten raped. I don’t know, you could have gotten raped.”
I snatched my wallet from the dashboard and confessed, “I didn’t want him to think he could get away with doing that to you.”
“Consent shouldn’t have been an issue! I’m, you know, so I should have just did it. It doesn’t mean anything.”
I turned to him and whispered, “It doesn’t matter how many times you have it, you can say, ‘no,’ whenever you want. Any prick who thinks differently should go screw himself. Zane has hands—he could’ve finished the job. You didn’t deserve that, and you never will.”
“It doesn’t matter what sexuality you are, Heath. You’re still a person, and you deserve so much better than anyone like Zane. Don’t let anyone ever control you like that.”
“Why don’t you take your own advice?”
“…because you and I both know I deserve worse.”