Illustration by Popularium
Most of my bad decisions begin the same way.
“It’s $2.75 well vodka tonight,” Hope, the bartender, announces as she pours Taaka into a glass of ice.
“Or, as I like to call it, the Lord’s Day,” I say. Don’t get me wrong. I’d like to drink better vodka. But I’m a poor writer already living outside my means.
By the time I finish my first drink, my friend Jeremy is beside himself because his now-ex-boyfriend called him a “princess” during the fight that ended their relationship.
“Most gay men are princesses.” I begin my second drink. After all, I’m here to get drunk. It’s been a long day, and I can tell by the last text I received that it’s only going to get longer.
“That’s a stereotype,” Jeremy responds.
“It’s not. Our lives mirror the experiences of these fairytale heroines. The ones who lose their glass slippers and ride magic carpets.” My buzz sets in. “We have our own wicked stepmothers and poison apples — everyone who’s ever called us faggots or too effeminate. The difference is that we have to figure shit out ourselves. Yet we just sit around waiting for Prince Charming to save the day.”
Jeremy orders two Kamikazes, which are certain to be disgusting because they’re made with Taaka. Regardless, we drink.
“As it turns out,” I go on, slamming my shot glass down. “You have to fuck a lot of frogs before you find your Prince.”
“You could stand to fuck a frog,” Jeremy tells me as he crunches ice from his empty glass. “I’m going to a party tonight where there will be some very attractive frogs. Come. You can get vodka-laid.”
Jeremy’s solution to everything is alcohol and sex. I, however, hold a certain level of gravitas when it comes to sex that isn’t stripped away as easily as Jeremy’s clothes.
Besides, I’m not drunk enough to agree to attend a social gathering. I generally dislike people.
Then, just as that last text promised, my frog, Iron Henry, enters the bar. Granted, we’ve never kissed, let alone slept together. I can’t decide whether I like him or not, or if — in my drunkenness I let myself hope — he is a worthwhile contender for my heart.
He begins to talk about an Israeli man who comes into his store. The object of his lust. Seconds into the story, I chug the rest of my drink, order another, and ask Jeremy, “When does this party start?”
See? Most of my hapless decisions are made about five Taaka-cranberries in.
Which is exactly how I ended up here, where everyone is naked.
“You said we were going to a party.”
Jeremy disrobes as we cross the threshold. “It is a party!” he says, smiling, as his eyes bounce from one ass to the next. “A sex party.”
“So I gather,” I scoff. “Jesus. I hope there’s Grey Goose here.”
Sex makes me uncomfortable. Sure, I like it. Yet, the carnivorous aspect of coitus has always been lost on me. And here, in this Houston home with a red light in the window flagging down gays like the Bat Signal, everyone is ravenous.
“Nope,” Jeremy replies as he makes us drinks. “Taaka.”
For a while, all I can do is drink copious amounts. It’s my earnest hope that the vodka will help me enjoy myself, or at least feel less self-conscious.
I recognize faces from the bars I frequent. There are people giving blowjobs on ottomans and slamming inside of one another against the china hutch. And for a while, I just sit here, as the desire to flee swells. This isn’t judgment. It’s just that as I sip the vodka, I miss Henry and the bar and how Hope makes Taaka-cranberries. In the middle of the living room before me, a pile of men drive at each other like something out of a RedTube video.
“It’s kind of weird,” a voice utters. I turn to see a man ten years my senior. For a while, he and I match wits. I discover he’s a professor attending the party under the guise of conducting a social experiment. And as the one-liners flow, so does the Taaka, and away goes that gravitas I’ve been clinging to.
Soon, we’re fucking in the back bedroom. I thoroughly enjoy the Professor. In fact, as my climax approaches there’s no doubt that he’s the best sex I’ve ever had. Yet when he kisses me and I open my eyes to gaze upon him, I realize that I don’t know him. Everything about him is unfamiliar. He’s just a distraction.
Dashing down the stoop outside might be my very first authentic fairytale experience. My senses askew, I feel like Cinderella running away with just one shoe. Only in my story, losing the shoe was well worth the realization that I hadn’t belonged at the ball.
There’s a hollowed-out compartment in my chest where my heart should be swelling. The sex was great, but I’m just this objectified, drunken fool who came here to get over a boy.
Catching an Uber, my phone buzzes.
“Where are you?” Iron Henry inquires.
“Um, leaving a… thing.”
“Meet me at the bar.”
The sex was fun. But can genuine interest in a person be sparked by a romp and a few too many vodkas? Sometimes, despite the fact that it’s the Taaka that makes us forget we must be home by midnight before the Uber turns back into a pumpkin, it’s also the Taaka that leads us right back to where we’re meant to be.
I return to Iron Henry because I have no prince to return my shoe. Because no amount of cheap vodka can cause the frogs we kiss to make that metamorphosis.
Instead they leap from lily pad to lily pad, shooting their tongues at the next thing to hop on by. It seems as though, despite how drunk you are, sex with strangers remains incomparable to the feeling of sitting next to someone you care about at your favorite watering hole, sipping a Taaka-cranberry, and holding hands under the bar.