It’s 7:15 PM on a Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. I’m lying in my bed, under a pink floral blanket, watching Gossip Girl on my laptop, when I should be studying for an exam. My phone vibrates. It’s a text.
“If I was a prostitute, would you still be my friend?”
“What did you do?”
“I’m afraid to tell you.”
“OMG. Come over. NOW.”
Three minutes later, a knock at the door. My best friend, Tyler*, lives about six parking spots away from me in the same apartment complex. We’ve been friends for only three years, but it feels like thirty. He walks inside like a dog with its tail between its legs.
“I did something, and you’re not going to like it.”
“Well, lay it on me, string bean.”
We both cuddle up under my floral bedspread. The pink of the roses brings out his startling blue eyes. He’s frail, pale, and adorable, a miniature Justin Timberlake. He’s so small he fits in my jeans, and I wear a size zero. I want to fold him up and put him in my pocket so I can carry him around with me all the time, that’s how much I love this man. As we get comfortable a wry grin spreads across his face.
“I let a guy suck my dick for fifty dollars.”
“I had to feed David Beckham!”
David Beckham, the fattest, noisiest pug dog anyone has ever seen, Tyler’s only childhood friend, and the sweetest animal I’ve ever met. Tyler had been struggling with money lately. His car was constantly breaking down. He had no family nearby, except his mother who lived about twelve hours away in a trailer park. His dad had left him and his mom years ago soon after Tyler came out. He had no one, but he liked it like that. He was a natural loner, and happy that way. But damn, did he love that dog.
“Dude, I could have loaned you some money.”
“April, you have no money.”
“You’re right. But still. So… how was it?”
“It was ok. He wasn’t even bad looking. But it was weird taking the money.”
“Weren’t you worried he was a cop? Or that he had the herp? Tyler, he could have freakin’ killed you!”
“Yeah, I know. But I had to do it. For Beckham. Please don’t hate me.”
“I could never.”
It’s 3:00 AM in Austin, Texas on a Friday night. My boyfriend at the time and I had been out drinking with his friends on the infamous Sixth Street, a chain of no-cover bars and lounges, packed full of eager, tumultuous, stressed out college kids looking for escape in the cheapest way possible. Joe* and I lived together at the time because my car had been totaled, and Joe lived walking distance from campus. We were in our second year of a relationship that never should have developed. I was lonely, insecure, and unstable, he was young, arrogant, and manipulative. We bickered all week, and when the weekend came we tried to let loose by getting completely inebriated. It was a destructive pattern we both were aware of, but neither of us strong enough to change.
We started fighting over an hour ago. He’s belligerent, tremulous with emotion, barely containing himself, only a flicker of sanity left in his eyes. For the first time I’m scared. I feel small, powerless, and my voice leaves me. He throws things, screams, and tells me to get the fuck out. Now.
I sit on the curb outside his apartment in my pajamas while he throws all my things on the ground around me. My clothes, my schoolbooks, my shoes, my toothbrush, all of it scattered in the street. I sit with my face in my hands, vehemently sobbing. It’s sometime in January, and probably close to freezing, although I’m too drunk and upset to notice. The streets are vacant. No cars, no late night stragglers, everyone’s asleep awaiting the next day’s hangover. I hear some slurred derogatory names, the door slam and the lock latch. I cradle my phone in the palms of my hands and scroll through the contacts list.
“Tyler…” I can barely speak his name through the overly emotional sobs impelled by the state I’m in. “Please don’t hate me.”
“Where are you? I’ll be right there.”
It’s 9:00 PM on a Saturday night. I knock on Tyler’s door and he yells, “Come in!”
“So what did you get me?”
“A number seven with a sprite.”
“Ah, you know me so well!”
We sit down on his pastel couch and start unwrapping our “usuals” from Wendy’s. Golden Girls comes on his TV.
“Are those my boxers you’re wearing?” he asks as he delicately nibbles a chicken nugget.
“Yeah,” I mumble back, shoving a ketchup-covered French fry in my already full mouth. “Oh my gosh, why are we watching this? Are we sixty?”
“No! I love Golden Girls! How could you not? You’re so Blanche.”
“Which one is that?”
We look sideways at each other and unanimously reply, “The slutty one!”
“I hate you,” I laugh. “So which one are you? The airhead!”
Tyler giggles, “I’m definitely Rose, with a little bit of Dorothy.”
“So this is what we’re going to be like when we’re old? Alone, fat, eating Wendy’s and watching Golden Girls.” I snuggle up next to him, still chowing down on fries.
“Well, unless you run off and get married, yeah. We can sit on a porch together bickering and comparing sex lives when we were young and beautiful.”
“You would win. And even if I get married you will still live with me. My husband will die young for sure.”
“Yeah, he will! You’ll suck the life right out of him.”
Beckham wheezes at us from the floor, begging for a French fry. It’s one of the few Saturday nights I stayed in while living in Austin. Most of the time I tried to convince Tyler to come out with me, but he usually declined. He wasn’t much for the chaos that normally ensued downtown. I was always disappointed when he didn’t come. I sat there next to him, wondering why I didn’t stay in with him more often.
The Golden Girls’ laugh reel fills the small apartment, and Beckham snorts in response. I look at Tyler with my best “puppy dog eyes” and coo, “Nobody will love me the way you do, Tyler-poo.”
“No, they won’t. Just don’t get any ideas about dildos. No matter how much I love you, I won’t do that!”
It’s the spring of 2009. When I moved to Austin in 2006 I didn’t know anyone, except my older brother who lived about thirty minutes outside the city. It was my first year at a University and my first time living away from home. The Great Recession was at its peak, and as soon as I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, like most graduates, I had no idea what I was going to do with myself. I was making barely enough money to keep my tiny one-bedroom apartment, my car, my phone, and I knew when my student loans kicked in I would be fucked.
Within a few months I got a job offer back in California in the same city my parents lived in. It would be exactly what I was doing when I moved from California to Austin, but with a promotion. I could live rent-free, save my money, pay off debt, and then decide what I wanted to do from there. It was an offer I couldn’t pass up. But my heart ached at the thought of leaving this beautiful city that I felt I had only just begun to experience. I had spent most of my stay there tied to one of the worst humans I had ever met, and I wanted nothing more than to make up for all the lost time spent with him instead with the amazing friends I had made. I spent my last day in Austin with my brother and Tyler. We had lunch and then dropped Tyler off at work before my brother drove me to the airport. My body felt one hundred pounds heavier as I got out of the car to hug Tyler goodbye.
“Well, I’m going to miss you, you bitch,” I tried to lighten the mood. My brother laughed, and Tyler smiled.
We stood there looking at one another for what felt an eternity. I couldn’t think of anything else to say so I hugged him for a very long time. I knew it would be a while before we saw each other again. We were both broke. He had never even been on an airplane before. I thought about him being in that apartment alone and I wished we were both there, watching Golden Girls and eating Wendy’s. A sense of gratitude washed over me, and a sadness I rarely felt, if ever. The past three years had been the darkest of my life. I was self destructive, lost, and irresponsible. I made some of the worst decisions and frankly, I was lucky to be alive. And every time I messed up, Tyler was there, to pick me up and make me laugh, and never once did he judge me for my stupidity and self-absorption. I realized then, when I was leaving, how lucky I was to have met Tyler when I did.
The sight of the three of us in the mall parking lot, outside Tyler’s work, must have been something else, with Tyler and I holding each other and simultaneously sobbing, and my brother, a burly, bearded man, with arms the size of my thighs covered in tattoos, wearing a black shirt that read, “Decapitate Drunk Drivers” standing off to the side, silently crying along with us. It was the close of a chapter that I was thankful for, but glad to see end. I knew Tyler would be a part of the next one, too, and the next one, and the next one, and the next, until we were sixty, sitting on a porch together, arguing who had a better sex life when we were young and beautiful.