Authors: Jeremy Blaustein
The Home For Wayward
Jeremy Scott Blaustein
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The following story contains mature themes, strong language, and sexual situations. It is intended for adult readers.
Dress Circle Publishing
New York, NY
All rights reserved.
"She rewrote things. We could go through something horrendous, you know? And then the next day, she’d be telling somebody what we went through and it was hilarious. She infused it with humor and slowly but surely, you remembered it that way, not the way it really was. So she taught me that you can rewrite memories. What the hell - you’re the one that has to live with them- rewrite them."
- Liza Minnelli on her mother, Judy Garland
It was past midnight on the eve of their graduation when Eli, Hunter, and Nick hatched a plan as flawless as their skin. It didn’t take much effort for them to break into the place where it all began - the theater on the main campus at Mackinaw University. Not that the Ladies were criminal masterminds. Far from it. But they did happen to be University darlings, which means the administration had given them the keys.
Campus security didn’t notice the intrusion. They were snoozing soundly in the parking lot, their feet up on the dashboard of their SUV. The trio strode past with the surety that they belonged, which, until they were handed their diplomas the following morning, would still be true.
When inside, they linked arms and climbed too many stairs past rolled up backdrops of palm trees and oak trees and elm trees and willow trees. The laughter wouldn’t stop because they wouldn’t let it. In fact, they couldn’t - not for fear that they would crumble, although that time would surely come. Rather, though, their mirth was an added side-effect from the Vicodin they had shared. It was Hunter’s prescription - the only perk leftover from oral surgery - but he was a real shirt-off-his-back kind of guy so he dizzily passed the pills around. For the past few months, his inability to keep the future at bay had caused him to brush his teeth like he was mad at them. His gums were receding at an alarming rate so, a few days ago, a surgeon sewed the skin of a cadaver into his face to counteract the damage he’d already done.
Knowing Hunter’s mouth was now home to re-animated zombie flesh did not stop Eli from wanting to kiss him. It would have been a welcomed reminder of the last time that their lips met, which was with such ferocity that it drew blood. As the scars healed on the inside Eli’s lower lip, they served as a copper-tasting reminder of why God intended for him to make art.
Tomorrow, they would have to say goodbye. Not to each other of course - the Ladies were a forever thing - but goodbye to the only world they’d ever known. When they made it to the fly grid above the stage, they howled to look down upon the long ago and far away.
“A toast,” Hunter called. “To the Ladies.”
Their red Solo cups clicked when they met in middle. They were too young to care that the champagne was almost hot. Warm bubbles choked their throats and made their nostrils flare. They had learned more about themselves in that theater than they had in the shower as teenage boys. But it wasn’t until Hunter looked up with tears dripping from his chin that they questioned if they had learned anything at all. Theater majors are proficient in exploiting their emotions, yet Hunter’s were still capable of taking him completely by surprise.
“Don’t you start, Lady” Nick said. “As soon as we get to New York, you mark my words, those will be tears of joy.”
Perhaps it would have been better to ignore him, for as soon as attention was paid, Hunter erupted in a wail. Eli wanted desperately to comfort him. He didn’t. Nick’s scowl made sure he knew that his type of comforting was no longer allowed. Instead, Nick tended to the boy. He wrapped Hunter in his arms and cooed, “There, there.” As they embraced, Eli struggled to find peace that never came. If you asked him, Nick’s betrayal was still palpable enough to send him reeling.
“I don’t mean to make a scene,” Hunter said, pulling the old index card from his bag.
Eli snatched it from his hand. “Then let’s be done with it.”
Nick agreed. “Yes. Let’s.” Then they all gathered around to read the sacred oath:
“I, Lady State-Your-Name, do by solemnly swear to uphold the guiding principles that make me worthy of this Family. By head, by heart, by lips, by groin, I look on them as they would look on me. This union serves in perpetuity to remind me that I am loved, for where love is, art follows. The bond we share shall not be broken. The Ladyfriends will last forever for I will forever be a Ladyfriend.”
Something happened when they spoke those words. They didn’t know it at the time, but they had just grown up. Hunter opened up his arms and not even Nick could stop him from pulling Eli near. Nick forgave the infraction and eventually joined in. For the first time in four years, the Ladies sat in silence. It seemed like an eternity before any of them was willing to let go.
1. A late morning meal between breakfast and lunch.
2. A weekly event where homosexual men drink mimosas and cluck about who put what in where the night before.
I have made a decision. As of 9:43 this morning I am effectively out of love with Hunter Collier. Don’t get me wrong— it’s nothing that he did. Actually, it’s more what he refused to do, which was to love me in return. But, as of 9:43 this morning, that well has officially run dry. Thankfully, the Bloody Mary’s over brunch are wet. Without Hunter Collier, they’re all the hope I have to quench my thirst.
Not to say that he has been banished from the kingdom. To the contrary, he’s still sitting across the café table avoiding eye contact as I ask him to pass the Sweet’N Low. Maybe he won’t look at me because he’s been forsaken. And, then again, maybe not. I’m over here languishing after having untied myself from around his little finger while that motherfucker doesn’t have the decency to notice. To his credit, though, he doesn’t notice much nowadays. Ever since we moved to Manhattan I don’t know what’s wrong with him. What I do know is that he’s a shell of who he used to be. His million-dollar smile had rapidly depreciated and his moony eyes seem forever buried by an eclipse.
Nick Applebaum, the Ladies’ other 33.333%, has also graced us with his presence. Unlike Hunter, however, Nick couldn’t manage to look innocent if he ditched the evidence in someone else’s bag. Friendship with him is a constant reminder to never turn your back on family- it leaves you too susceptible to dagger attacks. Not that a stab wound matters much among friends. And seeing as we’ve all been the best of friends since college, “the devil you know…” I suppose.
But, as checkered as our past may be, we’re still proud to share one, just as we are proud to embark upon a future. Brunch is where we make those plans. And seeing as our new home is a city that’s famous for not giving you the time to wipe after a shit- let alone take one -brunch is where we un-pucker and release, where we laugh at our embarrassments with such panache you’d think we didn’t know we were the punch line.
Nick is our patron saint of knowing no shame. He doesn’t talk so much as bray. “The handsome ones are always such a goddamn bore. They close their eyes and lay there like an emperor while I do my level best to not rupture my spleen.” He speaks with no concern for the table next to ours, which includes an expectant mother dining out with her in-laws. “Last night, I’m riding his dick like it might break off inside me and that son-of-a-bitch barely has the decency to thrust.”
“Come off it,” I say, trying to curtail his humble-brag. “He was the same guy you let fuck your ass last week. We share a bedroom wall, remember? I know I’ll never forget it; the sound of someone’s prostate caving is one you can’t un-hear. Last night, you let him take you again, but don’t claim it was by surprise. If he was such a disappointment the first go-round, why’d he get a second chance?”
He takes a long sip of mimosa before I’m dignified with a response. As usual, it’s hardly worth the wait. “Listen here, you schlimazel- he’s saved in my phone as ‘Big Dick Rick.’ He’s beyond hot, Eli. That’s plenty reason enough for me to want to sit on it twice. The way I see it: letting him fuck me, however tedious, is an investment. You were at the bar last night. You saw how everyone watched when I walked out with him.”
“You didn’t give us a choice; we were astounded. His hand was down the back of your pants before you’d made it out the door. For fuck’s sake, he carried you to the taxi like a six pack.”
“And wasn’t it sensational?” He points his jagged finger so close to my face that I want to take a bite. “What have we here? Doth your hazel eyes commence to turning green? Oh, Eli, just because I got mine again doesn’t mean you won’t ever get yours.” He urges Hunter to laugh and I want to kill myself when he’s all too willing to comply.
“Oh, please,” I scoff, readjusting my tortoise-rim glasses. “Your exploits make me feel nothing but unclean. Did you even make him wash his hands before you let him clap them both inside you?”
“What can I say?” Nick replies. “I’ll do anything for applause.”
“Then do the world a favor and study mime.” I’m generally proud of myself for saying my piece this time around. Although this is fair game, I usually avert confrontation with Nick like you’d avoid a pothole in a Porsche. Any argument with him risks the chance of turning into an unexpected triathlon where all you can do is duck when he throws emotional spaghetti at the wall to see what will stick.
“Well, I for one, say ‘bravo,’” Hunter chimes in, shamelessly wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. “But, gentlemen of the jury- let the record show that I will not be taking sides. Nick, darling, since we arrived here three months ago you’ve had more conquests than Alexander the Great. Perhaps Eli would prefer you not complain about your good fortune. From what I understand, you went home last night with the most handsome man at the bar that wasn’t pouring drinks. We should all be so lucky.”
Nick looks pleased to have been dressed down by Hunter, as if he’d taught him well. He says, “Well, if you two don’t learn to mind your p’s and q’s, I won’t let you backseat drive the way I drive my backseat.” Having had the ceremonial last word, he peels the lid off another packet of butter to ensure his pancakes are fully saturated.
Watching him slather as the butter puddles and pools I know I can’t compete. Nick’s construction is supreme: toned arms, tight ass, and cheekbones higher than his metabolism. (That’s not to say that all the cocaine he did in college didn’t offer a substantial boost...). There are more men lined up outside his bedroom door than movies in my Netflix queue. Each suitor is carved from a finer marble than the last. Meanwhile, while his asshole is learning how to validate parking, I’ve been experiencing more romantic misfires than a blindfolded sniper on Valentine’s Day.
A lull hits the table when the waitress brings another much-anticipated round. Hunter takes the opportunity to shirk his duties as monkey in the middle. He wipes the corners of his mouth before smoothing his napkin back in his lap. When he sets his sights on me, I want to hide. “And what about you, Eli? I hear tell that your yestereve’s sowing of the loins was quite fruitful.”
“Then maybe you should get your ears checked.” I find myself using a single tine on my fork to pierce the yolk of my egg. I watch it erupt like Mount Vesuvius and trickle slowly toward the crusted border of my wheat toast.
“Don’t try to put one by me. Nick already mentioned a particular gentleman that had his eye and hands on you. Just because I was busy slaving away at a Bat Mitzvah on Long Island teaching frizzy-haired tweens the cha-cha slide doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to hear all the juicy details.”