My friend Josh has a dilemma. Single for two years, he's graduated from making love to kitchen utensils. It won't do anymore. It's Black Friday. His love is on clearance, but there are no buyers and he won't settle. Sex with closet cases who hate flamboyant gay men isn't enough. He wants a nice guy who won't be embarrassed to be seen with him at the grocery store.
"Then go stand in the organic fruit aisle and cry vegan," I say. "You'll have a man in no time."
"It's no joke," he states. "I hate waking up without a boyfriend. You know, my ex, the woodpecker. His penis was my alarm clock. His drill, the promise of a new day."
I roll my eyes. "Can you be more dramatic?"
"It's true." Frowning, he kicks at the floor. "How am I supposed to find someone? Where do I meet new people? I'm done with searching for a man on a phone app."
"What's the problem?" I ask. "You have a referral source. What about getting set up by a friend?"
"Good idea," he replies. "Can you? Please. Please. Please."
I recall a drunk text, where Josh confessed to having an intimate experience with a spatula. I'm not sure what he did but he had a hard time wiping his ass that week. All he'd say is that his bad behavior would make a rolling pin blush. "I know too much about your kitchen tools," I explain.
"That was one night," he defends. "One lonely night."
"You wouldn't like my friends," I state. "They're too superficial for you. You want a traditional guy."
His lips curl with the thought. "Right. A traditional guy."
The next day he takes to his cell phone, making the rounds. He calls seven of his friends but no one is willing to hook him up. They all make excuses, stating their friends are coupled or too critical. Only one friend, Seth, is able to provide a lead. "His name is Rudy," Seth says. "But you have to go slow. He was just in a relationship. He's sensitive. Don't try sleeping with him. He's better than that."
Josh agrees, leaping at the chance to meet a guy who wants more than sex. The good news: the date is a success, filled with academic conversation, romance, and hints of intrigue. The bad news: Rudy reveals that he used to date Seth, and Seth has a jealous streak. You see, even though Seth introduced the two, he isn't willing to give up what he had. Is that common for gay men? Are we territorial even if we have no rights? For Seth, it makes no difference that he's merely Rudy's friend; he still owns the property. Rudy is on lease. So what if he wants to join Josh and Rudy on dates? Between boyfriends, Seth doesn't like being alone.
"Dude, you can't come out with us every night," Josh tells him.
"Why not?" Seth asks. "I saw him first."
"I introduced you to Rudy. Remember?"
"Yeah, and we're dating now. So we need space to get to know each other."
Seth smiles in agreement but doesn't take the idea well. This new relationship is cutting into his 'friend' time. So he begins texting Rudy to win him back. Soon, the texts take a sexual turn, entering the realm of 'what if.' Do you think we still have something? I miss you in my arms. But Seth doesn't want Rudy. He just wants to know Rudy's there.
On his birthday, Josh breaks it off when Rudy delays their plans for a beach day with Seth. "So much for meeting a man through friends," Josh says, calling me. "I'm back to ground zero."
"Hey, you took a chance," I say, cheering him up over dinner. "There are a lot of guys out there."
"Yeah, but they have friends. So even if they're single, they're not really single."
I wonder if he's right, if we've become a society without boundaries, travelling in packs in fear of being of alone. Friends or lovers, it seems we may have lost touch with the notion of deleting someone, feeling guilty for it. Even if the ex-flame, the ex-friend is no longer in your life, they're still looming on Facebook, waiting, watching.
I like to think I'm not like that, that I draw a clear, visible line when in it comes to friendship. So we eat dinner and I give Josh time to spend alone. As a friend, I know he'll need it to go shopping. For his birthday, I got him a Williams Sonoma gift card. Friend or not, I have no intention of asking what he buys with it.