Erick Davidson is a single early thirtysomething living in Los Angeles but living a decidedly atypical LA existence.
Brought to you by "Songs for the New Depression", the debut novel by Kergan Edwards-Stout.
all 200 Erick Davidson stories are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions, I thought I'd offer up links
to the best blogisodes from that collection. There are 29 stories, but
technically 36 since I grouped two-parters together.
"The Drag Show" and "The Drag Performer" - a two-parter in which Erick
discovers a secret about an office crush.
"The Comic" - a stand-up comedienne singles out
"The Applicant" - Erick interviews a candidate with an intriguing past.
"The Pregnant Lady" - a pregnant woman causes problems for
Erick during a bus ride.
"The Keller Introduction" (a continuation of "The
Applicant") - Erick introduces his boyfriend Chris to a new co-worker.
"The Secret is Out" (a continuation of "The Drag
Performer") - Word spreads about Erick's office crush.
"The Waitress" (a continuation of "The Pregnant
Lady") - Erick tries to keep his identity a secret from his server at a
"The Father" - Erick leaves a Father's Day voicemail
for his father and recalls his greatest memories of him for Chris.
"The Eugene Date" - Erick goes out with a friend of his
he's never met.
"The Chaperone" - Erick goes on a business trip to
escort kids from the inner city to host families in the suburbs.
"The Occurrence" - Erick and Chris
discuss an unexpected development that arises during "dessert".
"The Stag" and "The Consideration" - In this two-parter, Erick and Chris
take Chris's straight roommate, despondent after a breakup, to their favorite gay bar.
"The Letters 'T' and 'C'" (a continuation of "The Secret is
Out") - Erick's questions about his office crush are answered when he meets their person of interest.
"The Birthday Dinner" - Erick's boyfriend Chris makes a
"The Third Eugene Date" (a continuation of "The Eugene
Date") - Erick and Chris "express" themselves with Eugene.
"The Thanksgiving Visit" and "The Thanksgiving Dinner" - Erick flies to New Jersey for the holiday where his father
makes a surprising announcement.
"The Critics" - Erick and his boyfriend Chris's
negative review of an independent film are overheard by its director.
"The Church House" - Erick and his boyfriend Chris go to
church with their friends April and Grayson.
"The Mother Christmas: Ohio
Edition" and "The Mother Christmas: California
Edition" - In this
two-parter, Christmas with Chris's family is followed by
a visit to Erick's mother and grandmother.
"The Dog Sitter" - Erick's friends Mitch and Cole ask
him to take care of their dogs while out of town.
"The Replacement" (the sequel to "The Comic") -
Erick performs stand-up comedy.
"The Work Story" - Erick is laid off.
"The Sick Boy" - Erick takes on Chris's boss when
Chris falls ill.
"The Tired" and "The Desk" (a follow-up to "The Occurrence) -
In this two-parter, Erick finds Chris's amorous ways exhausting...and
"The Public Display" - Erick shies away from holding
Chris's hand when a young man aims a slur at them.
"The Loan" - Erick tries to collect on a
"The Ex, Part 1" and "The Ex, Part 2" and "The Ex, Part 3" - Erick's boyfriend's visiting ex
"The Mother and the Grandmother" - Erick takes his mother and
grandmother to his favorite gay bar.
"The Decisions to Be Made" - The final blogisode (so far).
Now for some breaking news...
I am in the process of editing the current book down to a more palatable length for a broader audience that won't necessarily give a shit that I've written 200 stories and made them available in one place. Many of the earlier stories and the more bloggy entries have been eliminated, leaving only the stronger pieces that help advance the general storyline of the story series itself.
Another brilliant set of eyes is going through the truncated edition as I write this, which I hope to have available by the end of 2012 or early 2013.
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
Steve – Erick’s old supervisor
Maryanne – Steve’s assistant
Jeremy – the CEO
Erick’s cell phone vibrates. Erick reaches his arm out from
under the covers and blindly feels around for the phone. He grabs the phone and
pulls it under the covers with him to answer the call.
“Hello?” he asks groggily, his eyes still closed.
“Davidson! It’s Steve. Are you working yet?”
“Good. How would you like us to work together again?"
“That’d be great.”
“Good. How soon can you get to Sunset and Holloway?”
“Um…what time is it?”
“Um…I guess I can be there by ten.”
“Great. I’ll text you the address.”
“Thanks. Bye,” Erick says as he hangs up the phone. He
lingers in bed for a few more moments before throwing the covers off, sliding
out of bed one extremity at a time and staggering into the bathroom for a
Erick gets off the 2 bus at Sunset and Horn. He waits for
the signal to change and crosses the street. He has walked by this building on
the corner several times on his way to Larrabee’s or the occasional reading at
the nearby Book Soup. Erick always thought how great it could be to work in
this part of town – more or less.
“This is just what I need…to be even closer to Larrabee’s,”
he thinks to himself.
Erick walks into the building and checks in with the
security guard at the guest desk. “Good morning. Erick Davidson for Steve
The security guard nods, looks up Steve’s number and dials
it. “I have an Erick Dickerson down here to see you.”
“Davidson,” Erick corrects politely.
“4th Floor. Lurffmed, Inc,” the security guard
says with a head nod toward the elevators.
“I don’t get it either.”
The fourth floor elevator opens up, revealing an eclectically
arranged office Erick had only heard about in the trades. Desks of varying
sizes, lengths and styles are arranged in a haphazard fashion. From the
brightly colored walls hang paintings from several local artists. Instead of
offices, there is a large conference room with several medium-sized tables
arranged just as haphazardly as the desks.
Erick tentatively steps into Lurffmed, Inc. He looks around
for a receptionist or even a front desk. Instead, a cheerful young chippie with
Prell hair and obviously whitened teeth emerges from the sea of desks, bowed
heads and slouching bodies sucked into the business at hand on their computers.
“You must be Erick. I’m Maryanne, Steve’s assistant. He’s so
excited that you’re here,” she says as if wanting to give him a hug.
Erick offers his hand. “Erick. Erick Davidson. It’s nice to
meet you, Maryanne.”
“I’ll take you over to Steve’s desk,” she says leading him
deeper into the office. “Can I get you any coffee, water or soda?”
“I’m sufficient, thanks,” Erick responds.
“Sufficient. I’ve never heard that before. I like it.”
Steve greets Erick halfway. “Thanks, Maryanne. I’ll take it
Maryanne nods and walks enthusiastically back to her desk.
“She’s quite the bundle of joy,” Erick observes dryly.
“Indeed,” Steve replies as he takes Erick over to his desk.
“It’s a lot different than Lefty,
“Very much so,” Erick answers as he looks around. “And
different from every other job I’ve had.”
“Yes, which is why I told you not to dress up.”
“It was either this or jeans with a hole in the crotch and
an old t-shirt,” Erick retorts as he pulls a chair up to Steve’s desk and sits
Steve laughs and sits down in his chair opposite Erick. “I’ll
tell you up front that the job is yours if you want it.”
“Great….what’s the job?”
“Here, it’s everything from marketing to production to
budgeting to acquisitions to development.”
“Great…now what does this company do?”
Lurffmed, Inc. creates, markets, produces and/or finances
web series. It functions under the belief that the full potential of the web
has yet to be realized. Therefore, monetization is secondary to the fostering
of creative expression that has been all but abandoned from the major film
studios and television networks.
Amazingly, it has been this mindset that Lurffmed, Inc.
launched very well-funded. The company’s investors aren’t bottom-liners.
They’re wealthy men with a creative heart – making a return very secondary to
originality and productivity. With a home base in San
Francisco, they opened up a Los
Angeles office about a year ago but have been in a
staffing frenzy as interest in web series has grown exponentially in that time.
Before Erick’s layoff in January, Steve had been his
supervisor at Lefty. But Steve was
hotly pursued by Jeremy Baum, who founded Lurffmed, Inc. and remains its very
well-respected CEO. Though Steve had wanted to remain loyal to Lefty, Baum finally made him an offer he
couldn’t refuse – the role of Ace (Lurffmed, Inc. prefers not to indulge in
traditional titling). Steve’s first order of business was to help him staff up.
Erick and Steve had a great working relationship with each
other but it wasn’t until Erick’s birthday party a week prior that he thought
about bringing him into the fold. He discussed the possibility with Jeremy, who
likes to conduct his own research on candidates. The evening prior, Steve and
Jeremy ironed out the specifics of their offer to Erick – sight unseen and
without any known interest from Erick.
Steve hands Erick a sealed envelope. “This is our offer
“Jeremy doesn’t like to waste time – especially when I can vouch
for someone,” Steve explains. “So take a couple of days to look it over and
call me with any questions.”
Steve leans back in his chair. “How was the rest of your
“It was great. I was still in shock the morning after the
surprise party. I really appreciate you coming out for it.”
“Of course. I had a great time. Plus it was great to see
John, Andrine and Dana.”
“It was. I’m just sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk to any
of you all that much.”
“That’s okay. Your mother and grandmother more than
represented you,” Steve teases.
“They usually do,” Erick responds, looking down at his package.
“So when would you need me to start?”
“Within the week.”
“Great. Now how about a late morning coffee?” Steve asks.
“Sounds good. My treat.”
“Nonsense,” Steve replies as he gets up and walks toward the
elevator with Erick following closely behind. “Your coming in is thanks
“Ok, good. I was hoping you’d say that, which is why I
offered in the first place.”
For Erick’s birthday last year, Chris took him out to dinner
at Houston’s Steakhouse in Century City
– where he brought up the possibility of moving in together sometime in the
That brief discussion was a bit of a surprise for Erick –
not because it wasn’t anything he hadn’t thought about, he just had no idea
Chris was thinking about it as well. After all, they had been together less
than a year at the time.
Those conversations resumed over the last few months as
Chris started actively looking for a house. While Erick still wasn’t sure they
were ready to live together, particularly given his current jobless situation,
Chris still wanted to include Erick in his decision – just in case. Either way,
Chris wanted Erick to have a place to move into whenever he was ready.
“So what do you think?” Chris asks as Erick at an open house
Erick shrugs. “I’m not sure.”
“It’s just a rental, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“That’s not it.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“It’s going to be pretty far from work.”
“What do you mean?”
“I kinda got a job today.”
“You did!” Chris exclaims as he pulls Erick into a hug.
“Yeah, but it’s strange,” Erick responds as he rests his
head on Chris’s chest. “I’ve never been out of work this long before. Now that
I might be going back, I'm not sure how to feel.”
“Well, I’ll feel great for you.”
Erick chuckles. “Thanks.”
“Where is it?”
Erick sits down in the middle of the floor. Chris, still in
his work suit, does the same. “It’s with Steve, my supervisor from Lefty. He’s working at a web series
company on Sunset just east of San Vicente and he wants me to work with him
“This sounds like a great opportunity – as opposed to just a
“I think so too. And it’s nice to be wanted.”
Chris places a hand on Erick’s knee. “I always want you.”
“I know,” Erick replies with a snicker. “But not
Chris looks around the house for a minute. “There are other
places we can check out.”
“I like this, but yeah…can we?”
“Absolutely. Here’s a listing of the open houses I wanted to
check out tonight. Are any of them near your new job?”
Erick scans the list. “A few of them.”
“Then let’s go,” Chris says with a smile as he and Erick get
up and walk out.
The next morning, Erick’s cell phone vibrates. He reaches
his arm out from under the covers and blindly feels around for the phone. He
grabs the phone and pulls it under the covers with him to answer the call.
“Hello?” Erick says groggily, his eyes still closed.
“Hello, Erick. This is Jeremy Baum from Lurffmed, Inc. I
know you saw Steve yesterday and the job offer still stands, but would you mind
meeting up with me today?”
“Um…sure. What time would you like me to be there?” Erick asks.
“Let’s do a cheap lunch. What’s near you?”
“There’s Tiago on LaBrea and Hollywood.”
“Perfect. High noon?”
“I’ll be there.”
“Great. See you then. Goodbye.”
Jeremy hangs up before Erick can return a goodbye. Erick
checks the clock radio in his bedroom that he’s used since high school.
“Seven-thirty? I hope he doesn’t work as late as he does early.”
“Who was that?” a freshly showered Chris asks, coming out of
the bathroom and into Erick’s bedroom wearing just a towel wrapped around his
“That was Jeremy, the CEO of Lurffmed. He wants to meet with
“I thought you already had the job.”
“I did. Maybe he just wants to see my face so he’ll
recognize it next week when I start.”
“Have you formally accepted the offer yet?”
“That could be another reason why he wants to meet with
“True. I guess I should be prepared to say yes.”
“Or no, if you don’t want the job,” Chris asserts as he
starts getting dressed. “By the way, what’s a Lurffmed?”
“I haven’t a clue, but I should probably find that out
before I accept – just in case it it’s something against any one of the five
minorority groups of which I consider myself to be a part.”
“I understand the black and the gay,” Chris responds. “But claiming
short, loud and balding as minority groups is questionable.”
Erick walks up to the front patio of the Tiago Café and
starts looking around for Jeremy – with no idea as to what he looks like. A
tall, slender fortysomething with his legs crossed waves his lengthy arm. The
arm catches Erick’s attention and motions him over to his table.
“I wouldn’t be upset if you weren’t, but I hope you’re
Jeremy,” Erick states by way of an introduction.
“I’m glad and I am,”
Jeremy replies as he stands up to greet Erick with a handshake.
“How did you know it was me?” Erick asks as he and Jeremy
“I do my research. Plus Steve gave me a spot-on
“What did he say?” Erick asks curiously.
“And I quote – ‘a short, black guy who walks into an area as
if waiting for spontaneous applause.’”
“That sounds about right,” Erick responds proudly.
“The reason I asked you here is because I have a proposition
for you,” Jeremy begins.
Erick raises an eyebrow but suppresses the urge to say,
“Does it come with dinner first?”
“I’ll be honest with you,” Jeremy continues. “I had another
candidate in mind for the position we offered to you, but Steve lobbied hard on
“I appreciate the honesty,” Erick replies stoically, though
“I like to operate under complete transparency. That builds
trust, good will and all that other bullshit. The other candidate originally
declined my offer. But while you were in the office yesterday, he called and we
worked things out.”
Erick nods his head. “I see. And I appreciate you telling me
“I understand. It’s an awkward position for you.”
“Not really. These things happen. It’s just the day and age
we live in.”
“Yes and no. I went along with Steve’s recommendation mainly
because of the other candidate’s decision. I actually had you in mind for
Erick perks up. “What’s the other position?”
“It’s a step up from what we offered you yesterday.”
“That sounds good.”
“But it’s in our San
Francisco office. However, in the interest of
fairness, the job here is still yours if you want it.”
Several thoughts cram into Erick’s mind simultaneously: San Francisco, Chris, a
job, Chris, income, Chris, moving, Chris and…well, Chris.
“It’s a big decision so think about it for a few more days,”
Jeremy says as he rises from his chair. “In the meantime, I owe you lunch. Feel
free to pepper me with questions while we eat.”
Erick rises and walks with Jeremy into the café to order.
“So what do you think?” Chris asks Erick at another
walk-through later that day.
Erick paces through the main area of the house. Several
times. Back and forth. Forth and back. Walking
forth toward Chris, his face screams, “I love the house!” Walking back away
from Chris, his face whispers, “Can we take it with us to San Francisco?”
“Are you okay, Erick?”
“I’m fine, but haven’t we seen this house before?”
“Yes. It just came back on the market.”
“I love it.”
“I remember. That’s why I put an offer on it.”
Erick’s eyes widen. “Oh shit,” he says.
“Oh shit good or oh shit bad?” Chris asks.
Erick sits down on the floor. “I have to talk to you about
Chris joins him on the floor, once again in his work suit. “Your
new floor fetish will save us a lot of money on living room furniture,” he
Erick smiles faintly. “I met with the CEO from Lurffmed
“Did you accept the position?”
“Not technically. I was going to, but a candidate he wanted
for the position I was ultimately offered expressed an interest. So they
offered me a better position with more money.”
“In San Francisco.”
“But if I want the position down here, it’s mine. He just
thinks I would be better suited for the one in San Francisco.”
Chris looks up and around at the house. “It looks like you
have a decision to make.”
“We. We have a decision to make.”
“Nope. This one is on you. And I’ll go along with whatever
“But I have no idea what to do.”
“Start with what do you want to do….and we’ll take it from
Hunter – Erick’s neighbor friend
Eugene – Erick’s neighbor
Moneca – Erick’s friend
Ethan – Chris’s roommate
Marko – the tavern manager
Cody – the bartender
The Hollywood House was Erick’s
first regular haunt since the Second Half back home in New Jersey. While he didn’t drink in those
days, he certainly did by the time his neighbor friend Hunter introduced him to
the House shortly after moving back to Los Angeles
three years ago.
At first, Erick would only go
to the House at the behest of Hunter. But by the end of his first few visits, he
had gotten to know the main server Teddy, the lead bartender Sarah as well as
Cullum, who owned and managed the tavern. So he kept going back. It also didn’t
hurt that Erick took an immediate liking to Teddy, a salt-and-pepper-haired force
of positive energy.
Erick was drawn to the
Hollywood House for its neighborhoody feel despite being located in the
touristy, sceney heart of Hollywood.
Like Norm on Cheers, Erick not only
felt welcomed at the Hollywood House, but also wanted. He soon started talking
up the tavern, and Teddy, to his friends and co-workers. He’d stop by on his
way home for work a couple times a week for a quick drink before Happy Hour
ended at eight – usually on days when he knew Teddy would be working. On the
random occasion he was particularly interested in a weekend football game, he’d
head over for the afternoon. It didn’t matter whether or not he went alone
because he would invariably meet new people with each visit.
Then Cullum, the owner and
manager, suddenly passed away. While Cullum’s family retained ownership, the
new management who came in wanted to cater to a more upscale, trendy clientele.
The shift drove away much of the staff and the longtime steady customers. The
result was a circular flow of clubbers and industry types who stuck around long
enough for the next hotspot to catch their attention.
Erick stuck around for a
short time after the shift but eventually found a new stomping ground – as did
“I can’t believe this place
is closing,” Hunter says as she looks around the tavern. She and Erick returned
to the tavern for the first time since the shift for its closing night swan
“I can,” Erick responds with
a bit of disdain. “This place has changed – and unnecessarily so.”
“Mee-ow,” Eugene, experiencing the House for the first
and last time, teases.
“What? I had some great times
here but I don’t particularly care for unnecessary change,” Erick replies in
“Where’s Chris?” Hunter asks.
“He’s having a Chris night
tonight alone in his apartment,” Erick explains.
“Trouble in paradise?” Eugene asks.
“As much as you’d like that
to be the case, no.”
Hunter looks back and forth
between Erick and Eugene with a smirk. “There’s something here I don’t know.”
“Eugene wants me to break up with Chris and be
his boyfriend instead.”
Eugene rests his head on Erick’s shoulder. “Like you haven’t
thought about it,” he charges.
Hunter leans forward on the
table. “Oh this is juicy.”
“I think about a lot of
And some of those things include you.”
“But not that.”
“Eugene, how would you like to hear about the
first time Erick met Teddy?” Hunter asks.
“How would you like me to buy
you a drink for doing so?” Eugene
“How would you like me to buy
you two drinks for not doing so?” Erick counters.
“Sorry, Erick. Eugene’s offering a
“How do you figure?”
“Because I actually want to
tell the story.”
“So I had no chance to begin
“Too bad Teddy no longer
works here,” Erick says looking around the bar and then down at his cocktail
glass. “I would have already had another drink in front of me by now.”
Hunter leans into Eugene to tell him the
story. “So the first time we came here, Teddy greeted us at the door and seated
us. I hadn’t known Erick very long but I could see it in his eyes that he was already
drawn to Teddy – it’s hard not to be. Over the course of the four hours we were
here that night, Erick was getting progressively tipsier – never completely
drunk but definitely less inhibited with his comments and his hands. Teddy soon
met Drunken Erick -- as did Teddy’s then-girlfriend. Now Teddy introduced Erick
to her, but the introduction went in one ear and out the other. So he continued
to fawn over Teddy. And while this sad display unfolded with Teddy on one side
of the bar, his girlfriend had situated herself on the other side of the bar to
watch with mild amusement.”
Eugene laughs while Erick hides his head in his hands.
“That deserves the two drinks
Erick offered you,” Eugene
“I thought it might,” Hunter
Erick points a finger back
and forth between Hunter and Eugene. “I don’t like you two,” he states.
Chris’s roommate Ethan and
Erick’s friend Moneca walk into the bar, spot Erick and walk over to the table.
“How long before last call?”
Erick looks at his
smartphone. “About half an hour,” he answers.
Eugene and Hunter shift
around in the booth to make room for Ethan and Moneca as they slide in.
Erick notices Ethan’s arm
around Moneca. He looks back and forth between the two of them but they offer
nothing by way of elucidation on whatever may or may not be transpiring.
“Are you two dating or
Erick jabs him on the
shoulder. “Get out of my head!”
Eugene playfully jabs Erick back. “I just noticed you were
looking at them as if you had a question that you weren’t going to ask. So I
asked it for you.”
“You two seem like a far more
interesting topic of discussion than us,” Moneca teases.
“Don’t try to deflect,” Erick
is cute and all, but he’s no Chris,”
“Who is?” Eugene responds with a shoulder shrug.
“That’s sweet,” Moneca
responds. “How is Chris?”
“Chris is wonderful. He’s so
wonderful. He’s just the best person ever. He’s so good to me. We have the best
relationship. I just love him. I can’t believe my life existed before him,” Eugene answers mockingly.
“Bitter grapes, thy name is Eugene,” Hunter comments.
“Chris is fine,” Erick
answers. “Anyway, how long has this been going on?” he asks, referring back to
Ethan and Moneca.
“It just sorta happened,”
Moneca glares playfully at
Ethan. “There’s more to it than that,” she says to Erick.
“I don’t even remember you
guys meeting each other,” Erick responds. “Then I saw you two at my birthday
“We didn’t know each other,”
Ethan interjects. “We both happened to be out and about with friends of ours a
few weeks ago. I saw her and struck up a conversation. We discovered we both
knew you and bonded over that.”
“So in a sense, you brought
us together,” Moneca adds.
“So in the near future, I’ll
either be thanking you or putting a hit out on you,” Ethan jokes.
Moneca playfully jabs Ethan
in the side. “Try that again.”
Ethan winces. “Alright, I
thank you today. I’ll thank you tomorrow and I’ll thank you forevermore.”
Moneca kisses Ethan on the
cheek. “That’s better.”
“And safer,” Ethan whispers
out loud to Erick.
“Don’t worry. You’ll muck
this up before then,” Erick chides.
The current manager of the
Hollywood House calls everyone to attention. The tavern quiets down except for
the sounds of the occasional murmur, the sound of traffic and passersby on Hollywood Boulevard.
“We are all gathered here to
say goodbye to the Hollywood House,” the tavern manager begins. “After eleven
years in a tough economy and a highly competitive area of town, we are closing
our doors after tonight. On behalf of the Hollywood House, I would like to
thank all of you for your patronage. Whether you’ve been here from the
beginning, from the middle or just discovered us last week, thank you for being
a part of our history…”
The bar patrons applaud.
The manager continues. “None
of this would be possible without the vision and heart of Cullum Tallen, who
opened this bar and ran it until he passed away suddenly two years ago.
Everyone please raise your glass in a final toast to Cullum and to the
Everyone raises their class
and yells, “To Cullum!”
“Alright everyone, last call!”
yells the bartender over the crescendoing noise.
The crowd rushes toward the
bar and Erick takes notice of the growing line. “Let’s avoid the rush and stop
off for a couple bottles of wine to take back to my place,” he suggests.
“Sounds good to me,” Hunter
“You guys go on ahead. I’ll
settle up here and meet you back there,” Eugene
“Thanks Eugene,” Erick
replies as he leads Hunter, Moneca and Ethan back to his apartment.
As he walks out, he takes one
last look at the bar as memories of drunken escapades, embarrassing situations,
interactions with Cullum and conversations with random people quickly play out
in his mind.
“I’m really glad to have been
a part of this,” he thinks to himself. “Thanks, Cullum.”
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
Meredith – the hostess
Stephanie – Erick’s mother
“Did you see the look on the clerk’s face when we asked for
a single room?” Erick asks with a chuckle as he and Chris walk into their hotel
room. “I’m not sure if he was mortified or intrigued.”
“We’ll find out if he stops by later. He’ll either have a
lead pipe or a bunch of dirty magazines,” Chris responds.
In previous years, Erick celebrated his birthday with
gatherings at his apartment, brunches at Basix Café in West Hollywood or by
simply inviting a bunch of people to his preferred bar at the time. This year, he
opted for a getaway with Chris to a Comfort Inn off the 15 freeway in the
thriving metropolis of…Cedar City,
Chris looks around the room with a mix of disdain and
confusion as Erick excitedly flops down onto the bed. Chris walks over to the
window, looks outside and chuckles. “What are we doing here?” he asks.
“I know it’s a bit random, but this hotel was my last stop
before arriving back in LA – again -- three years ago from Massachusetts,” Erick explains. “Ever since
then I’ve always wanted to just come back here and sequester myself for a few
“Ok. What am I doing here?”
“At the time, I hadn’t considered being sequestered with
anyone because I didn’t have anyone to sequester myself with…but now I do,” Erick
replies while motioning for Chris to join him on the bed.
Chris smiles and approaches the bed. “So we drove eight
hours to UTAH
so that we could ‘sequester’ each other for three days?”
Erick laughs and pulls Chris down onto the bed. “We don’t
have to ‘sequester’.”
“Don’t get me wrong. We’re here. We’re going to ‘sequester’,
but what else are we going to do?”
“We do nothing.”
“I haven’t just done nothing since I was a sullen teenager wanting
to be left alone in the basement to sleep, whack off and watch TV.”
“We can do that here.”
“Why would I need to whack off?”
“Keep talkin’ and you’ll find out,” Erick teases.
“You’re right. This is your birthday. However strange I may
think this is, what do you want to do while we’re here?”
“I want to watch television, rent movies, go out for
breakfast, have dinner delivered, sleep, talk and ‘sequester’.”
“For three days?”
“Yes. But most of all, I just want to enjoy my special day
with my special guy,” Erick answers as he wraps his arms around Chris’s torso.
“When does he get here?” Chris asks with a smirk.
“About eight,” Erick retorts with a similar smirk.
The next night, after a day of eating, sleeping and
“sequestering”, Erick and Chris are lying under the covers watching television.
“I’ve always loved this show,” Erick says.
“You’ve seen this before?” Chris asks.
“What is it?”
“It’s The George Burns
and Gracie Allen Show. You’ve never heard of it?”
“I know George Burns. I have never heard of Gracie.”
“That makes sense. He was alive during our lifetime. But she
died back in ’64.”
“How do you know that?’
“Oh Chris, you’re so cute.”
“No, really. How do you know so much about this?”
“Nick-at-Nite was one of my best friends in high school. I
feel in love with old TV shows and I would research all the ones I watched or
Chris smiles and kisses Erick on the top of his head. “You
fascinate me sometimes.”
“Just sometimes. The other times you make me laugh.”
“And the other times?”
“You just make me happy.”
Erick is at a loss for words, so he kisses the closest part
of Chris’s body closest to him – the armpit. Erick and Chris laugh. Erick then sits
up to kiss Chris properly. “I love you, Christopher Hart Russell.”
“I love Oh, God!”
Erick reaches around, grabs one of Chris's nipples and twists it.
"Ouch!" Chris winces with a giggle as he pushes Erick's arm away.
“I’ve actually never
seen that movie," Erick realizes.
“Then we’ll watch it on my birthday.”
“It’s a deal,”
he says as he settles back into Chris lap to watch more Burns and Allen. “For some reason, they remind me of us."
“Of course. They’re in black and white...and so are we.”
“This was all so exciting two days ago,” Chris confesses
over breakfast on the third day of the getaway.
“And what is it now?” Erick asks as blankly as possible.
“It’s just…not so much anymore. I think we should just go
“Are you serious?”
“Because I’m bored.”
“Yes, I’m bored,” Chris reiterates. “I’m not bored with you,
just this trip.”
Erick stares blankly at Chris for a moment. “Fine. Then this
trip is over,” he states flatly.
Erick was largely silent on the way home, staring straight
ahead and sitting tensely with his arms crossed. Every time Chris struck up a
conversation, he struck it down with one-word answers, gestures and head nods.
The Downtown skyline peered into view from the 10 Freeway
headed west and Erick was happy to be back home. He thought about if and for
how long he should actually be mad. After all, Chris did go along with the trip
in the first place. And Chris is probably one of the few men in existence who
could actually find Erick’s elaborateness endearing enough to take on as a
boyfriend. Still, it was his birthday and he could pout if he wanted to.
“Are you hungry?” Chris asks.
“That was our exit,” Erick responds.
“I know. I want to take you to a nice restaurant for your
“It’s okay. I’d rather just go home.”
“Well, I’m hungry. You can watch me eat.”
“Fine. I haven’t read the latest issue of Attitude magazine so at least I’ll have
something to do.”
A short time later, Chris pulls into the parking lot of The
Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant in Pasadena.
“Are you coming in?” he asks.
“Only because it’s too hot to sit out here in the car and
read,” Erick retorts as he gets out of the car and heads toward the restaurant
Chris rushes to catch up with Erick. He opens the door and
lets Erick in first.
“Thank you,” Erick says begrudgingly as he walks in with
Chris following closely behind.
“Hello, Mister Russell,” the hostess says.
“Hello, Meredith. It’s good to see you,” Chris responds with
a kiss on the cheek. “This is my boyfriend Erick.”
Erick and Meredith shake hands. “Will it be just the two of
you?” she asks.
“Yes,” Chris answers.
“Great. Your regular table is available in the back,”
Meredith informs them.
“Thanks, Meredith.” Chris replies as they follow her to
their table in the back area. Meredith opens the door and –
Eighteen people scream at Erick before bursting into
Erick’s jaw drops. Chris jumps up and down as if having just
scored a touchdown. Erick looks at Chris and hides his face in his hands. Chris
laughs and pulls him into a warm hug.
Erick turns around and sees John, Steve, Dana and Andrine
from Lefty. April runs up to give him
a hug. Moneca and Chris’s roommate Ethan both smile and wave. Grayson hi-fives
Chris. Erick notices Keller Madison, another Leftyer, in the back talking to Mitch, Cole, Eugene and Hunter.
Erick’s mother approaches with a camera. “Erick, smile!” she
commands as April ducks out of the way.
Erick blows a kiss to his mother. He looks around for his
grandmother and spots her talking to his friends Jerome, Merkus and Gracy.
Erick turns to Chris. “Why didn’t you just tell me you had
“Because I knew the expression on your face when we walked
in here was going to more than make up for nine hours of vitriol.”
Erick gives Chris a playful jab in the stomach and starts to
circulate the room.
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
April – Erick’s friend
Grayson – April’s boyfriend
Lurlene – April’s best friend
Dawson – Lurlene’s boyfriend
Rachel – the officiant
Erick and Chris rush down the
hall toward April and Grayson’s apartment, where they had been invited to a largely
Chris looks at his watch.
“Maybe April won’t notice.”
The door to April and
Grayson’s apartment swings opens. April steps out and leans against the doorway
with her arms crossed.
“She noticed,” Erick says.
“How did you know we were
here?” Chris asks.
“Erick’s voice carries – and
I can hear the elevator ping.”
“It was his fault,” Erick and
Chris blurt out simultaneously, pointing to each other.
“He wasn’t ready when I
picked him up,” Chris says.
“He drove really slow,” Erick
responds in defense.
April examines their faces
and body language. “You two got distracted,” she observes with mild annoyance.
“He picked me up in a suit,”
Erick offers by way of an explanation.
Chris nods his head,
accepting responsibility. “I picked him up in a suit.”
April ushers Erick and Chris
into her apartment. “I thought you two got that problem fixed,” she says.
“So what do you do, Erick?”
Lurlene, one of the other dinner guests, asks as everyone at the table is
Erick looks at April and
chuckles. “I am well….unemployed.”
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that,”
“I’m not. I’ve actually
enjoyed the time off.”
“How long have you been out
of work?” Dawson, Lurlene’s boyfriend, asks.
“About eight months.”
“Wow. What are you looking to
“I’m not entirely sure. What
do you do?”
“I work in advertising.”
“I know it’s not that,” Erick
says with a chuckle. “I was a mad man for about five years.”
“It’s not for everybody.”
“There was a time I loved it.
And then I just didn’t.”
“What have you done since?”
“My last job was in
promotions for a literary e-zine.”
“What’s an e-zine?” Lurlene
“It’s a literary magazine
that just publishes online,” Erick explains before changing the subject. “How
did you two meet?”
“It’s a crazy story involving
a treacherous airline flight, an emergency landing, a bus and two layovers
through Phoenix and Seattle just to get back here from Kansas City,” Lurlene
“But I’d do it all again if I
still got her out of the deal,” Dawson
Lurlene kisses him on the
cheek. “Isn’t he the greatest?”
“From what we can tell, yes,”
April rolls her eyes and gets
up from the table. “Before we have dessert, Grayson and I have some news,” she
“I knew they wouldn’t make it
to the altar without an incident,” Chris teases.
Lurlene and Dawson look at
Chris and the back over to April and Grayson. “Congratulations!” they exclaim
in unison as they get up from the table to hug the pending parents.
“How far along are you?”
Lurlene asks as she approaches.
“I’m not pregnant,” April
Lurlene and Dawson stop in
their tracks and start to head back to the table.
Grayson gets up and stands
next to April. “But we are getting married,” he interjects.
“We know that,” Chris says.
“Tonight.” Grayson adds.
“What? How?” Lurlene asks.
“Well, Rachel is an ordained
minister. She pastors the church we want to get married in. And she’s going to
officiate,” April explains. “Lurlene, I’d like you to be my maid of honor.”
Lurlene clutches her chest.
“And Chris, I’d like you to
be my best man.”
“That goes without saying,”
April pulls Grayson aside.
“What are we going to have Erick do?” she asks.
“Erick, we have a special
assignment for you,” Grayson tells him.
“I’m sure,” Erick replies
“What about the actual
wedding? What about your family?” Lurlene asks.
“We’ll still have that,”
April explains. “This one is for us.”
“We had a huge argument
yesterday,” Grayson adds.
“Shocker,” Chris interjects.
Grayson points a finger at
Chris. “You shut up your face,” he commands with a smile.
April continues. “We realized
that everything we were fighting about had more to do with what everyone else
wanted and nothing to do with what we wanted for our own wedding. So we decided
to have a few close friends over – and Erick – for an impromptu dinner and
“Thanks April,” Erick says
with a phony smile.
“I’m just kidding, love,”
April assures him.
“What about flowers and a
ring and a veil and a dress and the wedding march?” Lurlene asks.
Grayson shakes his head. “We
have the rings. The rest doesn’t matter.”
“Please let me get some
flowers,” Lurlene insists.
“It’s really not that big of
a deal to us,” Grayson protests.
“But it matters to me. I want
to contribute something to tonight.”
“You’re here and that’s all
what we wanted. Why else wouldn’t we tell any of you what we were doing ahead
of time?” April reasons.
“Fine,” Lurlene relents. “But
I just don’t see how a marriage is going to work without flowers at the
April and Grayson stand
side-by-side facing Pastor Rachel. Lurlene stands next to April. Chris stands
next to Grayson. Erick stands next to Chris holding up a small pillow with two
rings on it. Dawson, who had nothing else to do, stands behind Lurlene holding
up his cell phone softly playing “Ave Maria”.
“In this day and age, love is
everywhere but very hard to actually find,” Pastor Rachel begins. “We want
love, we see love, sometimes love pursues us and sometimes we pursue it. But in
a world of fear, mistrust and pain, it’s one of the most elusive of the
Universe’s greatest gifts. For you, April Tegiste and Grayson Levine, to have
come across such love with each other is a blessing. And that is why we are
here today – to unite that love into one love in the presence of, from what I
can tell, some very close friends. The rings please.”
Erick hands a ring over to
“Do you, April Tegiste, take
Grayson Robert Levine to be your husband through all of life’s trials and joys
until you part this earth and are reunited on the other side?”
“I do,” April responds.
Erick hands the second ring
over to Pastor Rachel.
“Do you, Grayson Robert
Levine, take April Tegiste to be your wife through all of life’s trials and
joys until you part this earth and are reunited on the other side?”
“I do,” Grayson responds.
“By the power vested in my by
the State of California,
the United Church of God and the Universe as a whole, I now pronounce you
husband and wife. Seal this with a kiss.”
April and Grayson kiss. Erick
and Chris applaud. A teary-eyed Lurlene turns around and buries her head in Dawson’s chest.
“The other couples may follow
suite,” Pastor Rachel continues. “May those kisses also seal your love
Erick and Chris kiss. Dawson wipes Lurlene’s
tears away and they also share a kiss.
“What are you going to tell
your families when they find out you’re already married?” Lurlene asks over
“We’re not going to tell
them,” April answers.
“It’s going to be our little
secret,” Grayson piggybacks. “And all of yours.”
Chris leans over to Erick. “I
guarantee she’ll have told her family before God gets the news,” he whispers.
See also: #185 - "The Violinist"
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
Brent – Erick’s brother
Janette – Erick’s sister-in-law
Erick spots Chris’s car as it
slowly approaches the Arrivals terminal at LAX Airport. He chuckles to himself as
he waves it down and sees Chris waving enthusiastically with a silly wide grin
on his face.
Chris pulls over. Erick opens
the rear passenger door and places his luggage on the back seat. He shuts that
door, opens the front passenger door and gets in. Chris takes Erick’s head in
his hands and kisses him deeply.
“I missed you,” Chris tells
Erick, releasing him.
Erick smiles and tastes his
lips. “I should leave and come back more often.”
Erick puts on his seatbelt as
Chris inches his way into the departing airport traffic. “How was your trip?”
Erick had just returned from
a trip to Baltimore
to see his brother Brent, sister-in-law Janette and nephews Allen and Stephen.
Five-year-old Allen had recently graduated from preschool and was headed into
kindergarten. Erick had missed the June ceremony, but Brent emailed him a video
of highlights from the occasion. The video prompted Erick to plan a weekend
trip out to see them before school started in September.
“It was…interesting,” Erick
“We have something to discuss
with you,” Brent prefaces as he, Janette and Erick are finishing dinner.
“This sounds ominous,” Erick
“No, it’s a good thing,”
Janette assures him. “At least we think it is.”
Brent and Janette look at
each other for a moment. “We’ve been talking about…possibilities,” Brent
“And as the boys continue to
grow up,” Janette continues. “We’ve recognized the need to begin making
provisions for their lives in the event our lives…”
Erick looks back and forth
between Brent and Janette in anticipation of a point, though he had an idea as
to where this was going.
“In the event....,” Brent
“Of our untimely deaths…,”
“We would like you to be the
guardian for Allen and Stephen,” Brent says, completing their thought.
Erick laughs. “Wow, that was
quite a display.”
“It’s not easy to talk
about,” Janette says.
“Why not? It’s just death,”
“Well, you may be able to
just leave the party without saying goodbye, but our departures will require a
bit more…preparation,” Brent responds.
“You think it’s easy to just
write up a will that says ‘Everything goes to Mother?’” Erick lobbies back,
“What about Chris?” Brent
asks with a touch of confusion.
“Mom would kill me if I left
everything to him.”
“But you’d be dead.”
“She’d find a way to kill me
– even in death.”
“Have you even thought about
your personal affairs?” Janette asks.
“I think about them all the
time,” Erick replies. “But I’ve had to cut down on them since I met Chris.”
“You and your jokes…,” Brent
“Well, just so you know, a
lot of whatever I may have at the time will go toward the boys’ college
educations,” Erick tells them. “Some will go to Chris and some will go to Mom
and Dad unless they’re already gone at which point what I would have left them
would go to you two.”
“That’s very sweet of you,”
“In all honesty, since you
first told me you were pregnant with Allen, I’ve always wanted to be in a
position to help you two out with paying for their college,” Erick adds.
“You don’t have to do that,”
“I know. It’s not about
having to. It’s about wanting to. And I want to. Simple as that.”
“What if you and Chris have
kids?” Brent asks.
“I have no desire for
anyone’s kids – especially my own. Chris is fine either way – or so he tells
Brent and Janette exchange
“Um…you do know our kids are…kids,
right?” Janette asks.
“Your kids don’t count.
They’re my nephews.”
“So you would rather have our
kids than your own?” Brent presses.
“Absolutely. Yours are
“Have you and Chris even had
a conversation about children?” Brent asks.
“Strangely, yes -- but only
as far as to say that if we wanted children, we’d adopt an older boy.”
“What about marriage?”
“What about it?”
“Would you ever get married?”
“It’s not legal in California yet.”
“But if it were?”
“We’ve talked about it. It’s
not anything either of us is set on. Would you prefer us to be married?”
“Not necessarily. It was just
“And a reasonable one. So I
guess this means you understand that Chris will in all likelihood be a part of
“Yeah,” Brent and Janette
reply in unison.
“Do you need to talk to him
about it?” Brent asks.
“I will, but my answer is yes
“Are you sure about that?”
“One thousand percent.”
“Wow,” Chris responds as he
exits off the 10 East Freeway onto the 110 North Freeway. “What if I had said
“These are my nephews. It
would probably mean we have an unknown expiration date.”
Chris nods his head. “That
sounds pretty harsh.”
“It wasn’t meant to be.
You’re a part of my life. They’re a part of my life, but they’d be
Chris continues nodding his
head. “I see.”
“I hope you would do the same
if your sister asked you to take her kids for whatever reason.”
“Oh, that’s already been established
“So why are you upset?”
“I’m not upset.”
“You seem upset.”
“Not at all. I like talking
about the future with you. And this is pretty serious future we’re talking
“So if something happened to
my brother and sister-in-law, we’d take in my nephews?”
“Absolutely. And if something
happened to my sister and her ex, we’d take in my nieces?”
Erick places a hand on
Chris’s thigh. “Absolutely.”
Chris places his hand on
Erick’s hand resting on his thigh. Their fingers intertwine. Erick sits back
and relaxes in his seat. He looks up at the skyscrapers making up Los Angeles’ downtown
skyline as they drive by. Despite being raised in New
Jersey and having lived in Brooklyn and Massachusetts, driving or riding through
downtown on the 110 always reminds him that he’s back home.
“That would make one helluva
sitcom,” Chris says, ending a minute or so of silence.
Erick thinks about this for a
moment and laughs. “Could you imagine? An interracial gay couple take in their dead siblings' children.”
“This fall, Chris Russell and
Erick Davidson star in We Are Family.”
“Imagine the Emmys.”
“Imagine the protests.”
“What network would we be
“Probably FX -- right after Sons of Anarchy,” Chris jokes.
After another momentary
silence, Chris tightens his grip on Erick’s hand and smiles as the car merges
onto the 101 North toward Hollywood.
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
Roberto Salazar – a long ago former co-worker of Erick’s
“Oh thank God this is still your number. This is Roberto…well, you know
me as Robert, from way back in the day. I know we never really got along and I
know it’s been years since we’ve spoken, but I am in town and would really like
to see you. Please call me. Please. 469-555-2141.”
“Wow,” Erick says to himself as he listens to the voicemail.
He had seen the number come up on the screen of his smartphone but didn’t
recognize it and wasn’t in a position to take the call even if he had. Still,
there was something about those rings that indicated to him some level of
Erick and Robert Taylor (no relation to the movie actor) had
worked together as assistants at SoCal Advertising for a couple of years about
decade ago. Robert was a snappy, resourceful go-getter who saw Erick’s hire and
much brighter disposition as a threat to his own aspired ascendancy through the
ranks of the company. When SoCal lost their largest account, Erick was laid off
but hired on to his then-boss’s spinoff company – which had acquired So Cal’s
lost business through some intricate legal maneuvering.
Robert remained with SoCal, where he rose to a senior-level
middle management position. While his hard work paid off career-wise, it didn’t
do so much by way of impressing his estranged family – who had all but disowned
him for taking on a professional name that differed from his given name of
The last Erick had heard about Robert/Roberto, he was living
with his wife and three kids in Dallas.
“Thanks for calling me back Erick,” Robert/Roberto says
after picking up Erick’s call. “I honestly didn’t think you would.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“We weren’t exactly friends.”
“We weren’t exactly enemies, either.”
“How are you?”
“Not bad. Funemployed.”
“Are you still in the business?”
“Nope. CTA was my last job in advertising. That was about
six years ago. Since then, I’ve been working in promotions.”
“Sounds like a fun job. I’m still slugging away in media
“What brings you to town?”
“A bunch of business meetings.”
“First time back?”
“Not at all. SoCal still maintains an office here.”
“How are the wife and kids?”
“They’re good. I guess you keep up with the grapevine.”
“Not really. I randomly ran into Christine a couple months
ago. We had lunch and she caught me up on all the dish.”
“Do you keep in touch with anyone else?”
“Not really. You?”
“Not at all. Things are so different now. I just put a lot
of the past behind me.”
“Which is what I wanted to talk to you about. Do you have
some free time over the next couple of days?”
Erick chuckles. “I have a lot of free time over the next
couple hundred days.”
“Oh, that’s right. Funemployment. My last meeting tomorrow
ends at 8. Can you meet me tomorrow night at 9? I’m staying at the Regent
“Sure thing. I will see you then and there.”
“Thanks, Erick. I really appreciate this.”
The sincerity in Robert/Roberto’s voice too Erick by
surprise, leaving him unable to respond as Robert/Roberto hung up the phone.
“If you two never got along, why are you meeting him?” Chris
asks when Erick tells him about his conversation with Robert/Roberto.
“I don’t know. There was just something in his voice.”
“Just don’t lend him any money.”
Erick smiles. “Don’t worry. It’s not like he was an office crush.”
The next night, Erick chuckles as he walks through the valet
area. He remembers, during his short time as a junior media executive for Christine
Taylor & Associates, pulling in here for client meetings with his 1999
Mercury Tracer amongst a sea
Erick walks through the vaguely familiar foyer into the
dining area. He takes a moment to look around. He remembers the first time he
met Andy Kohler, the sales manager from Boston
who created a lot of difficulty for him during that point in his early career.
He remembers the first time he saw Larry King dining nearby. He remembers the
feeling of having achieved a certain level of success for the first time in his
His face falls as he thinks about what a farce it all seems
to him now. He was such a different person in those days just trying to claw
his way out of being an assistant. But it was that false sense of drive and passion
for the business which led to his downfall – quitting his job at CTA and moving
to New York
for a short but disastrous summer.
A waving hand attracts Erick’s attention. It takes him a
moment to connect the image of the genial salt-and-pepper-haired gentleman with
the visual of the uptight black-haired young man from ten years ago. A faint
smile comes across Erick’s face as he makes his way over to Robert/Roberto’s
“It’s so good to see you,” Robert/Roberto says as he rises
to greet Erick with a hug.
Erick returns a dubious hug. “You’re looking well,” he says.
“Thank you,” Robert/Roberto says rather emotionally as he
sits back down and invites Erick to do the same. “You’re holding up pretty well
“I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative I am that you
agreed to meet with me tonight.”
“It’s not a problem,” Erick assures him. An uncomfortable
silence passes. Erick sees a heaviness come across Robert/Roberto’s face.
“Robert? Are you okay?” he asks.
“Roberto. You can call me Roberto now.”
“Fine. But are you okay?”
Roberto hangs his head. “I’m about to lose everything,” he
“What do you mean?”
Roberto looks back up at Erick as his eyes puddle up. “I’ll
just cut to the chase.”
Roberto takes a deep breath. “I’m gay,” he says through an
Erick’s face and mind go blank, not so much out of surprise
as much as a desire to respond properly. “Have you told your wife yet?” he finally
asks, hoping it wasn’t the absolute wrong thing to say.
Roberto shakes his head. “I’m probably going to lose the
kids, my job, our friends, her family…my family.”
“Is she that bad?”
“She’ll fight for full custody. She’ll badmouth me in front
of the kids. She’ll turn our friends against me. Her parents will put a hit out
on me. And my parents will disown me…again.”
“Are they all that bad?”
“Probably not, but it’s why I haven’t said anything to
“How long have you known?”
“I’ve always known. But you know the problems I’ve had with
my family – or maybe you don’t or don’t remember. My mother was ashamed of me
when I changed my name. ASHAMED. Changing it back wasn’t enough for her. She
wanted grandchildren, which meant I had to get married. So she introduced me to
a friend’s daughter. They all went to church together. We went on a few dates
and started going steady. Then I asked her to marry me. We had a big church
wedding. My mother had never been happier – at least not until my son was born
eleven months later and twin daughters two years after that.”
“All this in the last six years?”
“It’s a lot.”
“I’ll say it is,” Erick concludes. He places a comforting
hand on Roberto’s shoulder. “Not to be insensitive or anything, but…what’s my
part all this?”
Roberto chuckles. “That’s a reasonable question with a
simple answer. I just need to know that there’s someone who’ll be in my camp
when I come out on the other side of this. I know it's a lot to ask.”
Erick brushes Roberto off and takes him by the hand. “You got it.”
Roberto manages a faint smile. “Can I buy you a cup of
Erick tilts his head. “With what you’re asking of me, all
you can offer is a cup of coffee?”
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
Hunter – Erick’s neighbor friend
Elyke – Erick’s friend and former neighbor
Cole – Elyke’s brother
Chris walks out of Erick’s bedroom and sees Erick lying on
the couch watching the first season of Cheers
on Netflix DVD. “Why aren’t you dressed?” he asks.
Erick pauses the DVD. “Because I’m not going.”
“Because I’m watching Cheers.
I’ve finally made my way down to the first season and I’d like to finish the
“What about dinner with Elyke?”
Last summer Elyke, one of Erick’s neighbors and good
friends, moved to Berkeley
to finish his degree.
Flashback: “The Elyke Goodbye” – August 25, 2011
Though the two have kept in semi-regular contact, they
haven’t seen each other since that time despite repeated invitations on both
“What about it?”
“He’s expecting you.”
“No he’s not. I already told him I wasn’t coming.”
“But if you’re not going, then why am I?”
“Why wouldn’t you? Don’t you want to see him?”
“Sure, but he’s more your friend than mine.”
“Don’t worry. It’s not like you’ll be alone with him.
Hunter, Cole and Mitch will be there. Don’t you like Hunter, Cole and Mitch?”
Erick asks rather condescendingly.
Chris rolls his eyes. “I’m well aware of the guest list. Now
why are you no longer on it?”
“He made me mad.”
Chris sits down at Erick’s dining room table and rests his
head on his right hand. “How is it you two have already had a fight before even
seeing each other?”
“Well, you know how Elyke is.”
“I also know how you are. What happened?”
There’s a knock on the door and Erick gets up to answer it. On
the other side, stands Hunter -- arms folded with an “are you kidding me?” look
on her face.
“Are you kidding me?” she asks.
“Come on in,” Erick says as he returns to the living and lies
back down on the couch.
Hunter follows Erick to the couch and stands over him. “There
are three guys in my apartment waiting for you so we can go to dinner. And the
reason for the dinner tells us you’re not coming?”
“Correct,” Erick replies matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know which one of you two is the bigger idiot, you
for requesting anything of Elyke knowing he won’t cooperate or Elyke for not
cooperating even though we all know he’s going to eventually do.”
“And when he does, I’ll be at the dinner.”
“You two are ridiculous. Are you coming, Chris?” Hunter asks
as she heads for the door.
Chris gets up from the table and follows after Hunter. “I
still don’t even know what happened…or what’s happening, for that matter.”
“It’s just classic Erick and Elyke nonsense,” Hunter says as
she opens the door to find Elyke’s brother Cole on the other side.
“Thank you,” Cole says with a smile as he walks into the
apartment. He sits on the couch next to Erick. “I have a message for you from Elyke.
He text it to me to read to you since you’re not speaking to him and therefore
probably won’t read or respond to it.”
“Is it me or is this absurd?” Chris asks.
“The latter,” Hunter replies.
“Where’s Mitch?” Erick asks.
“He just booked a last-minute overnight location shoot, so
he’s at home sleeping,” Cole answers.
“Ok, let’s hear from the Dipshit,” Erick says.
Cole pulls out his cell phone and reads Elyke’s text. “It is conceivable that you are on occasion
not not missed by me. That’s the best you’re going to get. Now please come to
dinner with us.”
“Isn’t that sweet?” Erick says victoriously.
“Erick, I’m hungry. Are you coming or not?” a frustrated
Erick gets up off the couch. “Yes,” he replies as he walks
past Chris, pats him on the ass and walks into the bedroom.
“What is it with him and Elyke?” Chris asks.
“They’ve been like that with each other since Elyke moved
in,” Hunter explains. “It’s just their natural way. And a beautiful love story
when you think about it. Man likes dipshit. Dipshit likes man. Man plays with
dipshit’s head. Dipshit is overmatched.”
“Maybe so, but today I can’t tell which one’s the dipshit,”
“I can hear you, Christopher Hart Russell,” Erick states
loudly from his bedroom.
“That was the point,” Chris hollers back.
“It’s usually more entertaining than it is right now,”
Hunter assures Chris.
Cole gets up and walks over to Chris and Hunter. “My brother
doesn’t always express himself very well, but he’s very obvious about his
feelings toward Erick – and anyone else for that matter.” he explains.
“So should I be worried?” Chris playfully mumbles to Hunter.
“It’s conceivable that you might not not not need to not not
be somewhat worried on occasion…or not,” Hunter jokes.
Chris and Cole chuckle. “What was this tiff about today?”
“Are you sure you want to know?” Hunter asks.
“It’s pretty silly,” Cole warns.
Chris storms into Erick’s bedroom and closes the door. “Are
you telling me that all this has been about wanting Elyke to say that he misses
Erick selects a kangol hat from his stack of nine. “Give me
some credit, Chris. This is about Elyke refusing to say it – which is far more
“Don’t sit next to me at dinner,” Chris admonishes as he
opens the door and walks out of the bedroom.
“Is Erick coming?” Elyke asks from outside the apartment
“He’s in the bedroom. He’s almost finished getting ready,”
Chris says as he rushes out the door to wait outside.
“Why don’t you wait for him in here?” Hunter suggests as she
walks out the door. “He’ll be happy to have a few moments alone with you.”
“I’ll bet,” Elyke remarks.
“And if you two take more than five minutes, I’ll know why,”
Cole teases as he follows Hunter.
“If I have to spend more than five minutes alone with him,
I’ll jump off the balcony,” Elyke calls out behind Cole.
Erick walks out of his bedroom and into the kitchen to get
his wallet. “That can be arranged.”
Erick and Elyke stare at each other for a moment. Elyke
shifts his weight and forth while trying to avoid making direct eye contact
“You’re not going to turn into stone,” Erick chides dryly.
“Am I going to get a hug?”
“That wasn’t in the deal.”
“JUST GIVE HIM A HUG SO WE CAN GO EAT!” Chris, Hunter and
Cole yell from outside.
“How did they know?” Elyke asks as Erick embraces Elyke, which
Elyke reluctantly returns.
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
Everett – Erick’s visiting roommate from college
Erick sits on a bench outside his apartment building. He
watches as a sleek black convertible blasting Keisha Cole with the top down
pulls up in front. Erick shakes his head and smiles. The car eases its way into
a spot just north of the building’s main entrance. The top comes down and
locks. The door opens and the driver gets out to greet Erick.
“Bighead!” the driver yells.
“Knucklehead!” Erick yells back.
Erick runs up to Everett, his roommate from college, and
lifts him up in a bear hug.
“Look at you!” Everett
exclaims when Erick finally puts him down. “You’re so brave to wear such a form-fitting
“Look at you!” Erick replies. “Wearing shorts to show off
those chicken legs!”
Both Erick and Everett lose their smiles and stare each
“I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed you until I saw you
pull up,” Erick says through a stone face.
laughs and gives Erick another hug. “I can’t believe it’s been six years since
I’ve seen you.”
“Don’t you ever stay away from me that long.”
opens up the trunk to his rental car. “Those six years were your fault.”
“How do you figure?”
takes a small suitcase out of the trunk. “I made the last visit when you were
living in New York.”
“That doesn’t count. You were there for a conference.”
“What was the purpose of your trip?”
“When was the last time you were in Charlotte to visit me?”
“When was the last time you were in LA to visit ME?”
“I would have visited you here sooner except this was the
longest time you’ve been here since I last saw you.”
Erick narrows his eyes and glares at Everett for a moment. “That’s a good point.”
laughs. “I had to go there. But in actuality, there are times I wished I had
lived here, there and the North Pole – even if I didn’t know what I was doing
as I was doing it.”
Erick tilts his head as he processes Everett’s questionable comment. “Do you need
help with your bag?” he asks with tinge of curtness.
pulls up the handle. “Nope. I’m good. This thing has wheels.”
“Are you ready to meet Chris?”
“Is Chris ready to meet me?”
Erick starts to walk toward the entrance to his building. “A
better question would be if I am ready for the two of you to meet each other.”
Erick cracks open the door to his apartment. “Chris, are you
“I’m clothed, but that’s about it,” Chris responds from the
“Are you ready to meet Everett?”
ready to meet me?”
“One second thought, I’m not ready for either one of you to
meet each other after all,” Erick says, trying to close the door.
pushes past Erick and walks into the apartment. “Ain’t nobody got time for
Chris laughs and gets up from the couch to greet Everett. “I gather you saw
that video, too?” Chris asks.
“I’m the one who sent it to the Bighead,” Everett answers as he and Chris shake hands.
“It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“It’s great to meet you, Everett,” Chris says. “I’ve heard a
lot about you.”
looks back at Erick and then at Chris. “And what have you heard?”
Erick directs Everett
into the bathroom. “You must be starving. Why don’t you freshen up so we can go
out to an early dinner?” Erick suggests. “It’s Chris’s treat.”
“So what was Erick like in college?” Chris asks Everett over dinner.
Erick hides his face in his hands.
“He was sooo deep back then,” Everett begins. “We both sang in the gospel
choir, but he was Mr. Holy Holy Holy. Didn’t drink. Didn’t curse. Didn’t talk
about nobody. And tried very hard to fight his gay disease.”
“Wow, things sure have changed,” Chris comments with a
Erick shoots Chris a warning glare. Chris chuckles while Everett laughs tauntingly.
“And he fought it hard…” Everett continues. “…prayer, counseling,
denial, repression and fiddling around with one of our roommate’s boyfriends.”
Erick twists his mouth, having tried to explain this many
times over the years to many people who heard one of the many versions of this
story. “I didn’t know they were still seeing each other – and he started it,”
Erick states in defense.
Chris takes a swig of wine to avoid chuckling but his
shoulders give him away. Erick shoots Chris another displeased look, which Chris
averts in favor of watching Everett
dissolve into quiet laughter.
“And he even tried to take up a girlfriend,” Everett adds. “I’m sure
you know about her.”
“I do,” Chris replies. “Her name was Lori, right?”
Erick looks back and forth between Chris and Everett. “Lena.”
backs away from the table, doubling over in silent laughter.
“Are you okay, Everett?”
composes himself. “Chris, I have to tell you about Lena.
She and Erick were perfect together – as it were. She was just as deep as he
was. She didn’t allow him to kiss her because she didn’t want them to be
tempted to, and I quote, commit sins of the flesh with each other.”
“Really?” Chris asks in disbelief.
“Yes, and it worked!” Everett
exclaims. “He just started committing them with guys instead!”
Chris and Everett burst out in laughter again. Erick takes
notice of a few customers looking over at their table.
Erick stands up. “I think we’d better go,” he says.
pulls Erick back down in his chair. “I will give him this, though,” he adds
cheekily during a momentary break in the laughter. “He was very fervent about
Chris and Everett then laugh even harder. Erick looks away in
annoyance, but a faint smile creeps across his face.
“Did you really need to bring up the lip-synch contest?”
Erick asks as he and Everett walk into his apartment. Chris had dropped them
off, opting to stay at his own apartment so that Erick and Everett could have
some time alone to catch up.
takes off his shoes, walks over to the couch and collapses on it. “Yes. Because
I’ve always found it funny that the first time you participated, you performed
‘Long As I Got King Jesus’. But two years later it was ‘You Light Up My Life’.
I’ve always considered that your unofficial coming out.”
Erick sits down next to Everett. “I don’t think I ever had an
official coming out.”
“Dude, your life was your coming out.”
“Despite that comment, I’m glad you’re here.”
“I am too. I like Chris.”
“I could tell by the way you two kibitzed with each other
like Mary and Rose on the stoop of 227.”
“Let’s give it up for 227,”
with his two pointer fingers raised in the air toward heaven.
Erick does the same and the two of them laugh.
“It’s like no time as passed,” Erick says. “Despite all the
changes in our lives and in ourselves, you’re still a knucklehead.”
“And you’re still a bighead.”
“So what do you want to do tomorrow?”
“I want to take you shopping. What happened to your
“Well, I gave away bunch of clothes four months ago because I
couldn’t wear anymore. Then I started losing weight.”
“I wasn’t talking about that,” Everett says, putting his arm around Erick’s
shoulders. “I’m glad you’re no longer wearing those silly fisherman hats, but
your fashion sense hasn’t improved with age as much as you have.”
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
Stephanie – Erick’s mother
Dina – Erick’s aunt
Lawrence – Erick’s uncle
Frank – Stephanie’s man friend
“Your mother’s going
to be pretty surprised to see you,” Chris says as he sits on Erick’s bed
buttoning up his shirt.
Erick tightens the belt around his ever-loosening pair of
jeans, a tell-tale sign of the noticeable changes in his appearance since he
started working out twice a week with Eugene
two months ago.
“What are you talking about?” Erick asks.
“You’ve lost some weight since she last saw you.”
“You think so? I don’t think I’ve changed that much in
“So says you.”
Erick stands in front of a mirror that leans against the far
wall of his walk-in closet. Chris bought it for him about a year ago because
Erick refused to buy one for himself out of hatred toward all things with a reflection. “I don’t see it,”
“What belt loop are you on?”
“The third,” Erick responds as surprise registers on his
“Three months ago I was talking about just getting a bigger
Chris gets up and walks over to kiss Erick on the forehead.
“You’ve done really well. I’m proud of you. You should be just as proud of
“I’m proud that I don’t have to go out and get an entirely
new wardrobe because I can’t fit anything anymore.” Erick takes a second look
at the pants he’s wearing. “On second thought, I might have to do that anyway
but at least it will be for the opposite reason.”
Chris chuckles. “We should get going,” he suggests as he
walks out of the bedroom.
Erick takes one last look at himself in the mirror. “On
second thought, keeping these will leave me room for the inevitable re-growth.”
“My baby is disappearing!” Erick’s mother exclaims when she
sees Erick walk toward her table at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles on
Gower just north of Sunset in Hollywood.
She had driven down for the day with her sister, Erick’s Aunt Dina. Like
Erick’s mother, Dina is a woman of a certain age with the looks of a woman of
less than a certain age. She and her husband, Erick’s Uncle Lawrence, were in
town from Virginia
for her class reunion. Also in tow was a man see had been seeing periodically
that Erick didn’t like.
“Don’t worry, Mom. There’s still plenty there,” Erick
responds as he gives her a hug. He then turns around to hug his Aunt Dina while
Chris gives Erick’s mother a hug.
“There’s my favorite nephew,” Erick’s Aunt Dina says.
“What about Brent?” Erick asks.
“You’ve got a little belly there,” Erick’s mother whispers
“Erick likes it,” Chris says with a wink and a smile to
“When I’m with Brent, he’s my favorite nephew,” Dina
responds to Erick.
“Then you’re my favorite aunt…right now,” Erick jokes with a
smile as he turns around and greets his uncle with a hug. “Uncle
Dina, Lawrence and Chris sit down at the table. “Erick, you
remember Frank don’t you?” Erick’s mother asks.
Erick offers a closed-mouth smile, a sign to his mother that he’s going to be
polite but that’s it. He shakes hands with Frank, a worse-for-wear man of
Erick’s height who looks a few years older than Erick’s mother despite only
being a few years younger. “How’s your trip so far?” Erick asks.
Frank pulls Erick’s mother closer to him. “So far, so good.”
Erick blinks a few times and clenches his mouth before words
can escape. Chris grabs Erick by the wrist and pulls him down into the chair
next to him.
As Erick's mother and Frank take their seats, Dina clears her throat to get Erick’s attention, contorts
her face and looks in Chris’s general direction. Erick stares back at her in
“What?” Erick asks.
“Who’s the...um...white gentleman sitting next to you?”
“Oh! You haven’t met Chris yet?”
“Aunt Dina, this is Chris. Chris, this is my Aunt Dina -- mom’s
sister. You’ve met my mother. And this is Uncle Lawrence. Do NOT call him
Larry. Uncle Larry, this is Chris.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Chris,” Dina responds as she and
Chris shake hands.
Chris and Lawrence also shake hands. “Likewise,” Lawrence concurs.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Chris replies.
Dina leans on the table and rests her chin on the palms of
her hands. “And who is Chris?” she asks with a knowing smile.
Erick’s furrows his eyebrows in confusion. He looks over at
Chris for some form of elucidation. Chris leans over to him. “She wants you to
tell her that I’m your boyfriend,” he whispers.
“Why didn’t she just ask if you were my boyfriend?” Erick
whispers back in Chris’s ear.
Dina and Lawrence look back and forth between Erick and Chris.
Erick leans on the table and rests his chin on the palm of
his hands. “Chris is my boyfriend.”
“Next time you should introduce him as such,” Dina advises.
“I thought it was obvious,” Erick retorts.
“It is, but I just wanted to hear you say it.”
“And now I’ve said it.’
“Thank you,” Dina says as she leans back in her chair. “Now
don’t muck it up with this one. He’s cute.”
“Guilty as charged,” Chris says.
“And Chris, this is my friend Frank,” Erick’s mother adds.
Chris extends his arm across Erick to shake hands with
Frank. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Erick looks up from his menu and shoots Chris the same
closed-mouth grin he gave his mother earlier.
“Erick, what was that bar you took your grandmother and I to
on Mother’s Day?” Erick’s mother asks as everyone finishes up their meals.
“That’s right. It’s this gay bar in West
Hollywood,” Erick’s mother explains to Dina.
Dina’s draw drops and her eyes widen. “You took them to a
Erick nods and shrugs his shoulders. “There was no place
else to go after we went to the House of Blues Gospel Brunch.”
“It was a lot of fun,” Erick’s mother piggybacks. “There was
this teeny-tiny Asian lady who sang ‘Amazing Grace’. She brought me to tears.”
“At a gay bar?” Dina asks.
“No, at the brunch,” Erick’s mother replies.
“How did mom react to everything?” Dina asks.
“She had a ball!” Erick answers. “I was surprised. She was
holding court like she invented gay.”
“Oh Erick, your grandmother has been around some stuff – the
1970s was her heyday!”
“Yes, even though she had two daughters at home,” Erick’s
mother chimes in.
“At least we were of age to be home alone,” Dina counters.
“No. I was of age to be home alone. You weren’t, which meant
I had to be home alone with you.”
“That’s not how I remember it.”
“Of course not.”
A tense moment passes between the two middle-aged sisters as
years of unresolved feelings and unspoken words rise to the surface. Both of
them offer each other a closed-mouth smile as they repress those feelings and
swallow those words for at least another year until they next see each other.
“My God, it runs in the family,” Chris observes.
Erick’s mother snaps herself out of her looks-could-kill
haze. “So why don’t we go to Larrabee’s?” she suggests enthusiastically.
Erick looks at Lawrence and Frank. “Are you serious, mom?
With a minister and a man claiming he’d know how to turn any gay son of his
into a straight man?”
Chris, Dina and Lawrence sit in momentary wide-eyed in
“Why don’t we just go see the stars and the footprints
suggests as he rises out of his seat and looks around for a cashier. “I’ll go
pay the bill.”
Dina rises up and walks after him. “I’ll pay the tip!”
Chris sits uncomfortably, unsure whether to stay or go.
“You can help her calculate it,” Erick says to Chris, who
almost trips leaping out of his seat and away from the table.
Frank looks at Erick’s mother and then back at Erick. “I’m
sorry you heard about that, Erick. But that was couple years ago. I really like
your mother. And I will come to like everything about her life – including her
gay son and everything about him,” he says with a chilling smile as he rests a
firm hand on Erick’s shoulder.
Erick stares blankly at Frank’s face. He looks down at the
worse-for-wear hand resting on his shoulder. An eyebrow raises. “You can like
my mother all you want to, but like is
all this will ever be,” Erick replies tersely in the form of an admonishment.
He flashes a closed-mouth smile as he slowly rises up out of his chair.
“Funny you should say that because your mother and I have
been talking about getting married,” Frank tells Erick as a form of a dig.
Erick pushes his chair under the table. “Talk about it all
you want to, but know this much – there are only three reasons she would ever
say yes…and none of them have anything to do with you.”
“Erick! You are out of line!” Erick’s mother hisses.
“So is whatever you think this is with him, mother,” Erick
replies as he walks away.
Erick’s mother and Frank sit at the table in near shock.
“Where’s a belt when you need one?” Erick’s mother says out loud to herself.