MEET THE QUEERANTS
“And then he says, ‘So, are you a faghag?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, a lot of my friends happen to be gay men but -’”
“I’m surprised he even knew the word.”
“Ugh, such a straight thing to say -”
“They love to put things in boxes.”
“Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point…”
“There’s karaoke in room 2.
"Shall we go?”
“I don’t think I have it in me.”
“Surely a ballad?”
And that’s how you end up on a raised platform in the middle of Bittersweet Kisses, belting out Céline Dion at your friendship group and a handful of regulars like your life depends on it. Yes, you’re a few gin and tonics down and the high notes hardly have a touch of the Mariah about them; but the attention is serving you well.
The night wasn’t supposed to end like this. 7 hours before your rendition of My Heart Will Go On took place, the moment you thought you’d been waiting for all week finally happened. Jamie, a tall flannel-wearing, liberal-pragmatist (the closest thing you had to a significant other) was due to arrive at your flat.
The doorbell goes. He’s outside. I don't think I've ever been this nervous. My Mitchum deodorant's having a hard time of it.
David's slumped on the sofa pretending to be interested in Tipping Point. I ask him to put Dispatches on or something. I want him to think we’re at least a bit cultured. David looks me up and down. “You look like you’re about to do the Pasodoble and dance the man’s part.”
“No, I don’t.”
“That or the third member of Wham!”
Jamal strolls into the room, scantily clad. He appraises my outfit. “Oh my god. I love it. Can I wear it?”
“Well, not tonight. Obviously.”
He pouts and goes off in a sulk. “And take that One Direction poster down in the bathroom...” I shout after him. “Nobody, outside of this house, wants to see Niall Horan when they’re having a piss!”
Jamie’s on good form. He smells of Paco Rabane with distinct undertones of Lynx Africa. A heady concoction. The house is going to smell of heterosexual all weekend. He has his hand on my thigh under the table and I'm dripping... I just can't stop sweating.
“Yeah, man. You have to have a good playlist. Especially when you get to the overhead presses.” He squeezes my leg. I hope he doesn't think I'm turned on...
And that's when it happens. You hear the dulcet tones of No Tears Left to Cry and barely register the footsteps galloping towards you before the kitchen door flies open with a bang... “Why, hello there!”
A figure, wearing nothing but a towel, with damp hair, strides across the tiles. Arm outstretched;
Confession: There's something incredibly sexy about two males fighting for your attention. Even
when one is your gay best friend.
“Hey! I'm Jamie. It's Jamal, right?”
“Is that a vape in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
Thankfully Jamie ignores the comment and continues regardless.
“I've heard a lot about you.”
“Did she tell you about the time we nearly had sex?” Bloody hell.
“Jamal…” you hiss, as the smokescreen of perfection you've created for the evening vanishes in a second and a warped version of your sexual history is laid bare for the poor boy to see. Two pairs of eyes stare at you from across the table, eager for your next line. It takes all your strength to muster a forced smile and bring your heartbeat down to a normal rate.
“Jamal,” you start again, throwing your head back and laughing like a crazed loon. “We have never had sex.”
“What about that time in Mykonos?”
“We were both very drunk and shared a bed. Nothing happened.”
“Are you sure?”
“I'm pretty sure I didn't have sex with someone who thinks the vagina is somewhere below the navel.”
I can feel Jamie's gorgeous brown eyes staring at me, incredulously. God, he had nice eyes. Even his concerned face was cute… He stretches his arm and wraps it around the back of my chair in the way that men do to show you they're saving your honour, when really they're protecting their manhood. I inhale and pretend to be chill and nonchalant, and confirm that, we're just friends. As if it even needed to be said.
Jamal raises his eyebrows and shoots me a knowing look. "Are we?" he says. I kick him from under the table. This was not the way this conversation was going to go. David's throwing his head back, laughing. Jamal’'s towel drops a further 2 inches. I can see his pubic hair.
“What? He knows that I'm a raging homosexual with a delightful sense of humour and too much to say.”
Jamie was handling it well. The best anyone ever had. He was countering jokes about anal, professing a surprising love for Elton John and even made a vague reference to Glee. (He used to have a crush on Lea Michele.) I wonder how he'd recount the evening to the lads.
As you’re contemplating, the doorbell rings, for the second time that evening. David offers to get. It’s Li. “I’m not interrupting anything am I?” He knows perfectly well that he is.
“You know what they say… Two’s company, Five’s an orgy.”
I make introductions. There’s a bit of handshaking. It’s weirdly formal.
“What do you do, Jamie?” asks Li.
“I work in tech.”
“Well, you can check my harddrive anytime,” says Jamal with a husky laugh. Li rolls his eyes.
“What?” counters Jamal. “You’re forgetting we’re in the presence of a liberal.” He strides round the table and ruffle’s Jamie’s hair. “He knows we’re more than a bunch of oversexed gays with a poor sense of humour and too much say… Right?”
“My cousin’s gay, actually...” Why must they always make a comparison?”
Jamal announces that he has nothing to wear and Li and David offer to help, fleeing the scene. Finally you're left alone. You make a generic comment about the weather as Jamie reclines in his chair and looks at you with a smile. "
So I’ve been meaning to ask," he says, eyes twinkling. Your heart leaps slightly in anticipation. Could this be the moment? Did he want to make things official? You can see the invitations and table settings now.
“‘Are you a faghag?” What?
“Well, seeing you just now…” Pause. You fidget uncomfortably on your seat.
“A lot of my friends happen to be gay men,” you say with a slight chuckle trying desperately to detect if there’s any ounce of humour in his interrogation.
“‘Why do you think that is?” he probes. You’re shocked, you’re appalled, you can’t even… Who did he think he was? My therapist?
Dusk fades to black and you transform into terrible company, challenging yourself to only respond in monosyllabic answers or provocative statements. Needless to say, the date goes downhill from there. There’s no invitation to continue the night or indeed to do this again.
Before you know it, the door has closed and you’re left all alone on a Friday night. You message the group chat and in an instant, three darling notifications illuminate your screen reminding you how great you are and of all the reasons why you should join them in Bittersweet Kisses. You call and Uber, and pretty soon, you’re in room 2 announcing to the world that it’s his loss; your heart will go on.