Olin was firmly convinced that the entire Harry Potter series was a huge
"coming out" metaphor. He explained that Harry had spent most of his life alone,
surrounded by a mundane, closed-minded family who persecuted him constantly for
being different and kept him (quite literally) in the closet. There was the
whole idea of self-discovery, when Harry found out he was actually a wizard, the
whole concept of a community that was practically hidden from the rest of the
world and most times looked down upon by the normal people. To him it was
a story of a life of closeted misery followed by discovery, magical people, new
and exciting places, the joy of finding one's people, and of course excellent parties.
"I'm telling you, Jacob, J. K. Rowling might be a mother, but the woman is
dyke, through and through. No one could have put such huge clues in those books
that didn't understand what it was like to live in the closet." Olin would tap
the front cover of Chamber of Secrets and nod knowingly. "And no, I'm not
just viewing the world through fag colored glasses, I know what I'm talking
about." He flipped through page after dog-eared page pointing out this or that
reference. "And that Snape, I'm telling you, he was in love with Harry's father.
I don't care how much he sputters on about how much he hated him. Internalized
homophobia, complete denial... total."
Jacob had gotten used to Olin's wild imagination before. Olin always saw what
he wanted to see. It wasn't that Jacob didn't believe him; he just figured, as
usual, that Olin was viewing the world with a little bias. Olin seemed convinced
that somewhere in the hidden soul of the universe was a big gay God who dropped
subtle homoeroticism into the fabric of reality.
On Sunday night they had gone to see Minority Report. During the pool scene
Tom Cruise loses his son, and at that moment, Olin took a large breath and
exclaimed in a loud voice "Oh my god! He IS gay!" Jacob gaped at him while
others in the theater laughed or shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Olin was
an endless source of uncomfortable public moments.
Later, as they were walking back to the Short North from the Arena Grand
Theater, Jacob asked. "What the hell was that about back there? There are
a thousand rumors that Tom Cruise is gay, he even sued a paper over it. Everyone
Olin shrugged. "I know Jake, but I'd never noticed it before. I was
sitting there admiring his pecs and all of a sudden the gaydar just WENT -
OFF!" He laughed a little. "Amazing, right under my nose the whole time...
damn, I'm going to have to watch Legend again. I would bet serious cash that
he's checking out Tim Curry in that devil outfit."
Olin's bizarre insights to things always got Jacob thinking and eventually
made him check Olin's references to see if he could see the things that Olin
had discovered. The next day he rented three Tom Cruise movies just to
see if it made any sense to him. He rented Top Gun because it had always
been annoying, Cocktail because it always made Jacob want to drink until
he was blind, and All The Right Moves because it showed Tom's package -
that was always entertaining. His gaydar, however, stayed quiet and
The Harry Potter conversation had inspired him to start reading the books. He
had missed the film because Ryan had refused to go with him, so Jacob rented it
after the Tom Cruise Gay-a-thon. After watching the film, he devoured the first
and second books in big bites. By Thursday, he was in book three with a
vengeance and enjoyed it immensely.
Books had always been a great distraction for Jacob when he was lonely, and
goddamn it, he was lonely. A week in Columbus had brought him nothing but long,
bewildering conversations with Olin on the state of the world and Olin and
Jacob's gay place in it. Most of the time Olin berated Jacob for not being
friendlier with the neighbors or the guys at Union Station (where they had gone
a few times for dinner or drinks).
Olin saw things rather simply. Jacob had been dumped, was coming out of a
long, bad relationship and now he needed to get drunk, get laid, have fun and
find someone new. At that point, Olin planned to whisk the dust off Jacob's
mending heart and display it as a new piece of polished art for everyone to see.
Olin loved a challenge, so he ignored Jacob's pleas to be left alone and
dragged him everywhere. He made a point to comment on every guy who crossed
their path: "What about him? He's not bad" or "Not a good face, but look at
those arms." Or "CLOSET CASE! He might have been with her, but did you see he
way he was checking you out? Hell-oo!"
Jacob realized that he could not depend on Olin for a social life. Love him
as he might, after a few hours, Jacob just wanted to punch him. He wanted to
read and wallow in self-pity, not listen to Olin's constant, cheerful chatter
and optimistic encouragement. Olin just didn't live on the same plane as Jacob
Olin had never really lived a life in the closet. His time had been a few
short months of silent confusion followed by his mother's insistence that he
just come out with it and live life as God had intended. "I won't have a boy of
mine living under some kind of secret pain or acting like something he's not." Raena confronted him at the age of fourteen when he'd reluctantly asked to join
the baseball team at school. "You can't play baseball to save your life, Olin,
so quit trying to be like every other boy. Set down that damn bat." She refused
to allow it, seeing it as an effort to fit in. She forced him to sort out his
feelings, and then sent him on his way with books on being gay and the assurance
that: "Only God could have made you like you are, Olin. I obviously didn’t have
a damn thing to do with it. I think we should just trust His judgment."
Jacob wasn't ungrateful. Olin had helped him so much already. He'd managed to
get him an interview with a consulting company in town the following week, had
set him up with some cash (Olin and Pete did rather well). Hell, Olin had even
given him the names of therapists in town that lived and practiced in the same
block. But Jacob didn't want to live Olin's dream and couldn't relate to him
half the time.
Olin continuously introduced him to other men and that wore on Jacob's nerves
well enough. But it was the wave after wave of Olin's friends, most of them
touchy feely-men who gave Jacob tired, lusty gazes, which pushed him over the
edge. He had to find someone to talk to, someone who wasn't Olin. Jacob finally
told Olin that he wanted to go out to some of the bars in town and meet a few
people. Olin considered it a sign from the gods. That Friday night, with
excitement that Jacob should have taken as a portent of bad tidings, Olin and
Pete had taken him dancing at Axis, up the road from the apartment - and they
left him alone.
Axis had been a nightmare. It was fairly standard as far as gay clubs were
concerned: typical varied clientele, dance floor, balcony, platforms and flag
wavers, and booze, lots of it. The upper bar held most of the "watchers" who
stared down at the shirtless gym bunnies on the dance floor below, large lamps
with fake flames lapped the ceiling from wide bowls and wallflowers drank Bud
Light while seated at the benches along the walls.
His only interaction had been with a waifish boy named Scott, or "Scotch" -
as he preferred to be called. Scotch had short bleach blond hair and a dark
brown soul patch beneath his lip. When he smiled he gave Jacob the impression
that he was planning to eat him whole at any moment.
He spent at least an hour plying Jacob with drinks, leaning forward and
whispering pointless compliments in his ear, draping his spindly arm across
Jacob's shoulder- pretty much annoying the shit out of him. Jacob's head was
beginning to hurt from the pounding music and his head started to buzz.
Ryan would never have tolerated Scotch. For one thing, the name would have
inspired massive ridicule and disdain; also, Ryan would have been pissed at the
invasion of his personal space. Scotch was practically in Jacob's lap; twice
he'd had to move his drink to keep the boy from spilling it.
Jacob felt invaded, felt as if he were cheating on Ryan somehow- despite the
fact that the son-of-a-bitch had allowed him to integrate himself into Ryan's
life and then drop him firmly on his ass. It didn't really matter that Ryan
wouldn't speak to him at all, had changed the phone number, and wouldn't return
his emails... Jacob went to work one morning and Ryan dropped off the face of
Scotch asked Jacob if he would like to dance, or maybe go back to his
apartment, then leaned forward and kissed him on the neck and behind the ear.
The feeling against his skin was nice, but unwelcome. Jacob tolerated it
for about two seconds. He looked back toward the main bar to see a surprised and
horrified Olin slapping Pete on the shoulder to get his attention. Both of them stared back just as
Scotch attempted to kiss him.
"I really think I'd like to be alone for a while." Jacob pulled his head
back, placed his wide palm across Scotch's pursing mouth, and forced him back
onto his barstool. "And I really don't think I like you."
Scotch sat there in stunned silence, lifted his hand to his mouth and skulked
away without a word.
Jacob could see Pete burst out laughing while Olin grabbed a bottle of water
and trotted over, shaking his head. "That was appropriate." He watched Scotch's
retreat with confusion and turned back to Jacob, handing him the water. "What
was wrong with him? He was cuuuute."
Jacob sighed and twisted open the bottle, took a large drink. "He's..." Jacob
watched as Scotch started hitting on some guy in the corner of the upper
balcony. "...Pretty much a sleaze." Scotch looked back across the balcony at
Jacob, meeting his eyes for a moment before dismissing him for another bit of
prey. "What an arrogant ass"
"Ahh..." Olin followed Jacob's gaze to watch Scotch picking up his new prey's
drink and taking a sip. "He doesn't seem too shaken by it."
"Somehow I don't think it's possible to shake someone like that without using
physical force." Jacob took another drink, trying to get some odd taste out of
his mouth. "He kept asking me if I wanted to go back to his apartment."
"At least he was trying to take you home and not just to the parking lot."
Olin's eye caught someone on the dance floor and he pointed him out to Jacob.
"Is he more your type?"
"Are you sure you're gay?" Olin asked, smiling.
"Yes, very sure." Jacob laughed a little at this. "But I think I should probably go
someplace a little less meat market."
"A little more meat market is what you need, Jake-ee." Olin drank his water
and pointed back to Scotch with the bottle. "At least at a meat market you can
be more choosy. You might meet up with that porn star I saw the other night."
Jacob sighed. "As if that would happen."
"You still don't believe me, do you?" Olin turned and smiled at Pete at the
bar. "I'm telling you, I've seen the man fuck... and some faces you just don't
"Sometimes all of this sex shit gets on my nerves."
Olin turned back to face Jacob and shook his head. "It's not as if any of
this comes as a surprise to you, Jake. You've gone out before. It kind of comes
with the territory at a club. Plus, sometimes plain, revenge sex is all you
"I've never had revenge sex... and I don't have one night stands. I don't
like them... at all."
Olin looked dubiously at Jacob and shrugged. He seemed to mouth something but
it was drowned out by the music.
"Anyway, I haven't even thought about it. I haven't been alone for a long
time." Jacob replied, a little disgusted at Olin, as if he were somehow
justifying emotionless sex. "I've been with Ryan for almost a year now."
Jacob closed his mouth and looked away. He knew that he'd said the wrong
words as soon as they left his mouth.
Olin simply stared at him, looking angry.
He sipped at his water, feeling strange. He stood. "I'm going back to the apartment."
Olin touched him on the shoulder and squeezed a bit, turning him back to face
him. "You know what I'm going to say?" He held a finger up in front of him. He
had put on his lecture face.
"Yea, goddamn it, I know." He shrugged.
"It's not as if everyone is as shallow as that little twit over there." He
motioned back at Scotch again. "You're not going to find another Ryan... hell,
you shouldn't ever try to find another one. That whole thing was just
wrong, and you know it."
The thumping music around him seemed to batter that point into Jacob's head.
He didn't like how he was feeling at all.
"I'm not looking for another Ryan, OK?" He said. "Look, I'm going home. I'll
see you in the morning." Jacob motioned over towards the bar. "Tell Pete I said
Olin softened. "Alright." He stood on his tiptoes, and kissed Jacob on the
forehead. "We have to get you happy again, Jake. We need to fix what that idiot
did to you."
Jacob frowned. "Not tonight, I don't feel like being remade." He headed
toward the stairs. He'd winced when he heard Olin say "Idiot", and his brain
replayed it over and over. He still loved Ryan and wondered if it was possible
to stop. He started to think that maybe he was the idiot.
He reached the door, ignored the faces he passed, and then emerged from the
building. It was warm and muggy outside and the heavy air stilled his mood a
little. His head was spinning and his heart was pounding.
He concluded that they had just gone out far too early for him. Most times,
he went to a bar he went to drink, not dance. They'd arrived around nine and he
was feeling a little fucked up for only having a few drinks. It was unusual for
him to want water by eleven. Jacob dropped the empty water bottle into a trash
bin on High Street. He felt a little disgust at himself for thinking that he
could enjoy himself at a dance club. Maybe he should have tried to dance.
Ryan had done that to him. Ryan hated dancing, hated clubs. He'd practically
killed any sort of enjoyment that Jacob had for anything other than sitting and
having another drink. In Texas, they would start on Friday night and not end
until early Sunday morning. Ryan had formed the idea: Get drunk fast and
hard, if they could stay conscious long enough to fuck then they would.
Jacob walked south along High Street, past the Greek shop, herb shop, J&G
Diner and The Coffee Table. He followed a yellow tape path along the sidewalk
and street construction, and then crossed the street to walk toward Union
Station and the apartment.
He kept thinking to himself that Ryan would have loved the Short North. Ryan
went weak in the knees for trendy art districts - one reason why they had paid
such exorbitant rent on their small apartment. Jacob wished that he were there,
walking with him. He'd always been able to point out the unusual, hidden gems of
a location to Jacob's blundering eyes. Ryan would know where to go from the
moment he stepped foot on the sidewalk. He would pull Jacob around, buying him
odd trinkets and books, statues from "Great Things on High" or sit with him at
Mac's getting plastered on Lemon Drop shots. After that they might stagger up
the stairs to the apartment and lie in bed.
Jacob could imagine this always, the heat from Ryan's body, and his presence
beside him. Ryan could exude sex, even slurry and red eyed, and Jacob was
always thankful for even his meaningless kisses. There might not be sex; but
there was always be talk - long conversations that would last until they were
He pulled out his keys at the door and entered 666 High Street.
He wasn't tired at all, and decided to lose himself in a book. He grabbed the
next Harry Potter book, "Prisoner of Azkaban" and tried to read more of
it. His head buzzed and popped, he stared at the pages, enjoying the texture of
the edges and the feel of the thick paper between his fingers. He tried to read
but ended up staring at the words, reading one page over and over... finally the
words seemed to bleed into life and he felt like he was just reading the past.