The belle of the ball returns home to the same sheets from the same Target down the street as you. She brushes the night frizz from her hair and clips it to the back of her head, just like you. Does she wonder what she did in the recent past to bring on her bad karma at the moment? Or why the best clothes shrink in the dryer the same day you get to wear them out? Who knows? Not I, said the gay.
Monte dropped the hair from the back of their head and let it get caught in the rushing wind just outside the car window. Mauricio drove a little too fast but it seemed appropriate because these rides in the back seat always feel longer than they are. It didn't help that none of the 3 passengers were able to dance off their high or get lost in the flashing lights of a new club.
It was just 15 minutes ago, Monte thought to themselves; the three of us were standing at the edge of something magical. The re-opening night of one of the very few clubs for the queer community to feel… like the queer community. Monte felt the culmination of countless nights when they imagined what it would feel like to be surrounded by those like them. Monte should have felt elation at being that close to fulfilling a dream, and yet they felt the same fear they would get when they worried if those around them were judging them. Why?
Monte saw the car's turning signal begin to flash and looked for the street signs. The car they rode in was turning onto Spence street; at the end of the mile long road, the car would turn left and be directly in front of Monte's condominium. The night was coming to its close before it even began and the same question played inside of Monte's head.
"Why do I fear the community that is my own is judging me?"
The car goes too fast over a dip in the road. Mauricio's arm instinctively moves in front of Alise, who sit's in the passenger seat. She lets out an audible yelp as the car nearly scratches the road. Monte's phone falls from his mindless hand on the floor of the cramped Corolla. Monte leans down and aimlessly grapples at his phone that blends in with the dark floor of the car. When Monte brings the phone back up to their face, Grindr is open and refreshing with its straight lines that spin in a small circle. Monte chuckled at the unintended similarities of the app's design and its users. Monte's mind began to do what it does best: overthink.
Mauricio spoke quickly, "Oh shit, my bad, I'm sorry. I always forget about that damn dip… Monte, you good back there?"
Alise spoke before Monte could return to the current situation, "Aye! Mauricio, please be careful, you do this all the time. I don't want us to get hurt." She rubbed her hand on Mauricio's shoulder worriedly and looked at him, possibly pondering why she let him drive in the first place.
"I don’t always hit dips, babe! I almost run red lights, there's a difference. This was an accident, I swear," Mauricio aimed a smirk and a smile at Alise that he knew she couldn't resist. He turned his eyes to Monte who looked to be on the verge of crying and dancing at the same moment.
Monte began to speak out loud, unknowingly, "Because you've been an asshole! Oh... haha… oh no, yeah you've been a dick and not even like... a good dick. Probably the kind of dick you don't tell your friends you're getting."
Alise and Mauricio looked at each other and mouthed, "What?" That's when Monte realized that they weren't the only one in the car. Monte noted to pay attention more because… who would be driving if it was just them in the car? Certainly not I, said the gay. Monte spoke to the couple now, directly, "Sorry, yeah I'm good. I was just a little bummed about not going to Edges, but I'm good now," Edges being the new gay club in the small town that burned down a few years prior to this night. Some rumored that it’s untimely demise was a hate crime, others pondered the idea of insurance fraud but everyone knew that it would be back... eventually.
Mauricio let Monte's words hang in the air for a moment as he turned onto Lockett Dr., Monte's street. "Yeah, that sucks, who doesn't take cards these days? Definitely some other time though! For sure."
"Yeah…" Monte acknowledged Mauricio's words and then continued back onto their own train of thought, "I just realized, that in order for me to enjoy the queer community here, I kind of have to apologize first."
Alise comically turns in her seat to face Monte, "Oh. My. God. What did you do?"
"Remember when I was just deep in my own emotional shit these past two semesters?
Mauricio interjects, "How could we not, you mention it every chance you get." Monte's jaw fell open while Alise fought back a giggle. Mauricio laughed, "I'm kidding man, I get it, continue, continue please."
Monte responds, " Hey, it is perfectly okay to talk about mental health issues. We all go through them, and we should share our stories, to help each other like heal or whatever." Mauricio and Alise remain silent. Monte continues, "but yeah, I do mention it a lot, I’m sorry."
Monte begins again, "When I was depressed and shit, I was just always looking for sex on… on stupid apps like these!" Monte holds the Grindr home screen full of naked torso's, the oddest combinations of emojis and close-ups of beards his friends will probably ever see. "I treated a lot of guys badly, some of whom were some of the first I saw before we even got into the club."
"Damn… that sucks dude. How do you even fix that?"
“I’m not sure,” Monte opened the car door and began to get out but before they stood up, Monte looked back at Alise and Mauricio, "but that's exactly what I intend to find out. Thank you, for the night. I will see you soon." Monte stood up as Alise and Mauricio said goodbye. The couple waited for Monte to get to their door and see it shut before they left the neighborhood.
Mauricio turned to Alice before reversing the Corolla, "A bit dramatic, yeah?"
"Yeah, a bit", Alise responded, "but he's high so… it's okay."
"Don't forget tipsy, he's tipsy too."
"Ooooh yeah," Alise agreed and placed her hand on Mauricio's hand. It hovered over the gear shift between them, "Let's go home, baby." He kissed her and they drove back to their home across the small town and only almost ran one more red light.
Monte stayed up another hour that night, compiling all the profiles of the men in their community that they did wrong over the past 8 months. This is where they would begin.