It had been a steamy day in may; high 90's, without a single cloud in the sky. My cell phone rang and I picked it up. Kyle was on the other end.

"Hey Otis! You know there's a massive block party on Twelfth Street tonight. Wanna go? Whole city is invited." he said excited. For a moment I thought about turning him down. I knew exactly why he wanted me to go. I was to be the third wheel yet again while he and his anorexic girlfriend Gabriela made out in front of me. I hated it. It was always a punch in the gut reminding me of why I was still single. He probably knew I hated it because he always suggested that I date Gabriela's nerdy best friend, Michelle; who just happened to be single and was possibly crazy about me. It wasn't that I hated Michelle, she was a nice girl and all; but I was a closeted gay artist and I actually hated it very much when people always assumed that I was straight and loved tits. It always left this bitter taste in my mouth like those cheap and sour penny candies that taste like soap.

I wished I wasn't so good at deception. At the time, I was sure that not a single person suspected I might be the slightest bit queer. I had learned to blend into the enemy's camp. I was able to walk, talk, and act like them down to bone. But every night I would go to bed and stare at my ceiling wishing I could just tell everyone who I really was. Wishing I could go get my hair done at a salon, or buy some new clothes with a new group of gay guys who would appreciate my tastes and give me hugs and kisses when they left. I wished for a boyfriend who would cuddle with me at night. A boyfriend who would sleepover at my house, having deep conversations about life with me. Instead, I was abandoned in the prison of the straight, and my own fear of reality was the warden.

I ended up accepting his offer to the block party. If anything it was a good chance to meet some more locals. Perhaps another closeted gay guy or two who would have their gaydars go off as I approached and sweep me out of the party and into their beds. I sighed as I hung up the phone; fat fucking chance.

Around 6 PM, I went to get ready. I took a shower and made sure my face was cleaned. I applied two different cleansers, some astringent, and a moisturizer. I wanted to look my best, I never knew when Mr. Lovely would come around. But even after I cleaned myself up I felt like shoving my face into a meat grinder. I never found myself attractive. I had a head of really thick and wavy black hair that was annoying to actually manage. I thought my green eyes looked a bit too large. I was naturally dark skinned and always thought my skin was ashy so I always made sure to carry around a small bottle of advanced moisturizing lotion. What I hated the most was my build. I thought I always looked a tad too fat even though I always weighed 173 pounds when I weighed myself. I was convinced my scale was broken; I swear I was starting to get a gut. Eventually I left my house feeling completely self conscious. I really wanted to be noticed by another gay guy, not some nerdy girl.

I met up with Kyle at the pharmacy where he stocked up on his condoms. I always rolled my eyes when he did that because it meant he was planning on fucking Gabriela yet again. What special place would he fuck her this time? The playground? The cemetery? Maybe he might finally do it out in the middle of the street. It disgusted me a bit, especially when he would tell me about the details. How he would shove it in fast and hard but always pulled out slowly and carefully so she could really feel it. If he were any other person I probably would've removed him out of my life by then. But he was critical part of my disguise; a distraction from my personality. All eyes were always on him; he was full of energy, constantly moving, constantly fidgeting. People were always more interested in what he had to say. As long as I was in the clear and wasn't being hassled about not having a girlfriend; I was perfectly content having him around.

"You want me to grab you a pack? Michelle's coming later tonight. You know you wanna do her." He said with a goofy grin.

"I already told you, she's creepy."

He smirked and disregarded my response, grabbing a variety pack. When he bought them he forced them into my pocket.

"I have a feeling tonight is your night. Trust me." he said confidently.

We got to the party an hour after it began. Kids ran around the streets with sparklers. Vendors stood at their carts passing out funnel cakes, fries, shakes, and hamburgers. Families had the grills fired up serving chicken and hot dogs. Loud pop music blasted out of a pair of speakers on both ends of the streets. There were clowns and fire breathers. It was like a raving high school party crashed into the circus. After a few messages were sent we found Gabriela standing by one of the vendors drinking a milkshake. Kyle slithered around her like a snake latching onto her bony body and stole a sip of the shake. She smirked.

"Hey Kyle," she turned to me as Kyle began nibbling on her ear. "Hey Otis. Michelle's gonna be here later. Want me to text you when she gets here?"

"I didn't bring my phone." I lied, "I'm gonna go grab a burger or something. Want anything?" I asked Kyle, but he didn't respond. Not even five minutes and the two were already sucking face. I wandered around for a bit looking at all the stands. I saw a couple people from school and greeted them, but most of them were too busy dancing or making out to notice me. In a crowd of hundreds I felt like a pathetic loser; I felt alone.

I grabbed a cheeseburger and some freshly cut fries and took a seat at a picnic table nearby. A clown walked by with a crowd of children following him. There were so many people I got dizzy trying to make out faces. I took a bite of my cheeseburger and tried not to stare at the strobe lights. Then I heard a familiar voice.

"Hey Otis!" Michelle said jumping out of the crowd. "I didn't expect to see you here!"

Her glasses were crooked on her face and she was sweaty. She looked exhausted. I could tell she was in a rush to find me. I don't know what Gabriela had promised her but she looked really eager, possibly even desperate.

"Looks like its the party of the year." I said trying to craft an escape, "I actually think it's a bit too wild. I think I should go."

I tried to slip away with my fries and burger in hand, without another word but she grabbed my arm.

"Please take me with you! I'm not used to these parties and I'm claustrophobic." her voice had become more rushed. "I really want to talk to you! Can we get out of here and go somewhere?"

I felt sorry for the nerd so I decided to let her follow me. I led her a couple blocks down where most of the children were gathered playing kid games. We took a seat on a bench. She was panting loudly taking deep breaths, she had yet to release my arm.

"I'm sorry. I hate going to parties. They always make me feel so awkward." She said pulling out a handkerchief and wiping her forehead. "Jeez, it's hot."

"If you don't like them, why are you here?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Gabriela told me you'd be here. I wanted to see you."

I rolled my eyes. I wanted to tell her I was gay. I wanted to tell her she was wasting her breath coming to the party. I knew that she was lonely though, just as lonely as me; searching for that special someone. It was the pressure of being a senior. Graduation was just around the corner, and everyone had this paranoia that they'd be alone forever if they didn't find a significant other by graduation. She pushed herself closer to me, I slid away. There was a moment of silence and I could tell what was coming. I wanted to get up so I didn't have to deal with her. I knew that at that moment she was conjuring the courage to tell me her oh so dark secret that I had obviously figured out years ago.

"Otis, I really like you. I have always liked you." she said fixing her glasses. She didn't look up at me. I stayed silent and continued eating. She was tense.

"I know." I finally replied with my mouth full.

"Really?" she sounded so shocked. "Do you like me back?" Her voice became shrill. I guess she was listening to herself because she asked again in a much more quiet and calmer tone, "Want to go somewhere and make out?"

"No thanks." I said rolling my eyes. I dared not to look at her. She became silent. I knew I had hurt her but I really didn't care. I was a tad bitter with society and straight folk. I barely had any sympathy. Maybe just for a minute, but that was all.

"Am I ugly?" She suddenly blurted out taking off her glasses. She was sobbing softly.

"You're not ugly."

"Then why don't you like me? Why doesn't anyone like me? Kyle told Gabriela you were single and have never had a girlfriend in your life. I thought you might be excited to well-you know-" she said through her sobs. "I just want my prince to come. I thought you might be him."

"Hun, you must be out of your damn mind. I'm waiting for my prince too." I thought. I rolled my eyes and stood up eating the last of my sandwich. I looked at her sitting on the bench looking all torn up and defeated. I knew I was starting at a mirror image of my real emotions. It made me disgusted with myself.

"Michelle, there's a boy in my class named Jorge Gillie, he's a huge Star Wars fan like you. You and I have nothing in common except our friends. Go ask him out on a date and stop crying. He's single so I doubt he'll say no. You still have a full month to get your turn in the bedroom; if that's what you want. In fact, he might be here tonight." I said taking a few steps away from her. "I'm just- not your type."

I knew she was staring at me as I walked away. I wasn't sure if she was in shock or awe, but I felt her gaze lingering.

I felt like a bigger loser after that. I walked over to a beer stand to ask for a cup of water. The man just laughed as he gave me the cup, I probably looked like a bigger dork than Michelle.

A clown with a black eye walked up to me and asked me if I had a cigarette. I told him I didn't smoke so he pulled out a balloon, and filled it up with air. Then after a few quick twists he handed me balloon that was shaped like a penis and a set of balls.

"I'm too old for this shit." he grumbled. After flipping me the bird, he stomped off. I threw the balloon into the trash and the party started to clear. Mr. Lovely hadn't found me. I felt like shit. I took a seat at a picnic table and looked around for any sight of Kyle. No doubt he was probably off on a balcony somewhere getting head.

A few workers and neighborhood leaders began to clean up the litter as people left. The strobe lights eventually went off and the music turned off; it was 12:30 AM. I was ready to head home alone when it happened.

"Excuse me," said an unfamiliar voice, "may I just get some of the trash under your feet?"

A young man, my age. He held a long stick with a sharp metal point attached to it in one hand and a trash bag in the other. He stared me down.

"Oh sorry." I said moving my feet. He used the stick and impaled a few wrappers and cups with the stick.

"No problem. That was one hell of a celebration, eh?" he said with a charming smile. I stared at him with my mouth wide open. I probably started drooling, I wasn't sure. It had to be him. It had to be Mr. Lovely in the flesh; and there I was, speechless.

"You aren't wasted are you? I don't want to have to have to get an ambulance.

"N-no, I'm not wasted. Am I still in the way? I'll move if you want." I was melting before him.

"You're good." he said going back to his garbage picking. I realized I had wanted this moment to come for so long, yet I have never once thought about what I was going to say. I watched him for awhile, I had to get his number. I couldn't let him slip away unnoticed. It was my chance to act and after the shitty night, I was ready to do anything.

"So are you part of the neighborhood?"


"You're helping clean up, you must live around here." I said trying not to fumble on my words.

"Nope." he said throwing more cups and food into the trash bag. "My dad owns the funnel cake stand. I'm just cleaning up the area and heading back home, I'm beat." he explained without looking up. "I actually live uptown."

"Oh," I said quickly jumping to my feet, "I'll give you a hand."

"No it's fine. I can do it by myself."

I began picking up trash with my bare hands. It made me want to vomit but I had to keep him engaged. I at least wanted his name. He watched me from the corner of his eye.

"Well," he said confused, "thanks, here just use these."

He handed me the prong and bag and took a seat reaching for a bottle of water he had left on one of the tables. He really did look wiped out.

"It's no problem, you look like a mess right now."

He stared at me and then a smile cracked on his face. "I probably do."

"You don't look that bad though." I corrected myself nervously. Great job Otis, you meet Mr. Lovely and give him an insult. "You just look a little overheated."

"Thanks." he said taking a sip of his water. "You here alone?"

"I came with a friend, but I'm not sure where he's gotten off to."

He smiled. "You want a free funnel cake? It's the least I could do for helping me out."

"Sure, that would be fine." I said. I watched him head back to the little cart and begin preparing a funnel cake. I made it my mission to have the area clean by the time he got back. When he got back he handed me the plate and took a seat. I sat with him. Down the street we could see a group of people setting up fireworks preparing to seal the night in colorful explosions. I turned to him and grinned.

"I'm Otis." I stated holding out my hand.

"I'm Chris, everyone calls my Kip though."

His hands were covered with powdered sugar and he had a little on his face. He was a cute one. His hair was short and brown artistically ruffled. His eyes were a vivid blue, and his smile was contagious.

"So I've never been uptown. What's it like?"

"It's pretty high maintenance. I like it here better, there's a lot more happening here. A lot more interesting people."

I had a feeling he was talking about me. I wanted to ask him if he was gay then and there. I wanted to find out if he was single or had a boyfriend. But I was too afraid my hopes would be crushed.

"So do you make a living off selling funnel cakes?"

"Are you crazy? I'm actually a paperboy right now. I need something a little more stimulating though, like accounting or something. I can't wait until graduation. I can't wait for the freedom to be whoever I want to be. What do you do?"

"I paint mostly."

"What do you paint?"

"Mostly still lives; those little fruit baskets and bottles. I'm not the best, but I'm getting there."

"I've always wanted to paint, but I never had the dedication. I would love to see something painted live. It's one thing to see the finished product, but it's a whole new world watching a painting come to life. It can get so technical."

I could not believe it. He appreciated art too? This was too good to be true. Just as I was about to respond my phone started ringing. I excused myself and took the call.


"Yo, where are you?"

"I'm still at the party, or what's left of it. Where are you?"

"Don't worry about it. I'm spending the night at Gabriela's place. So don't wait up for me." he said and quickly hung up. I knew what he was gonna do with her and scoffed. I walked back to Kip who was now talking to a tall man with an apron covered with sugar. His father I assumed. When he was done he walked back over.

"Hey, I've got to go. My dad's heading out. Wanna meet up sometime and talk some more?"

My heart began pounding. Had he seriously just asked me that? I tried to play it straight, I still had yet to figure out which side of the fence he was on.

"Sure, sounds cool."

We exchanged phone numbers and just like that; he was gone. I had no idea that on that night, the cogs would begin to turn and my life was about to undergo some major plastic surgery. Behind me, the fireworks went wild and sent intense colors of red, blues, and greens up into the night sky. Kyle had been right. It really was my night.