Dating Diet: Love Game

By Anthony Paull

The backdrop beckons with a most brilliant set-up. You see, tonight, there's to be a festival - full of sparkles, magic, and music - embodying equality with the spirit and spunk of the late Harvey Milk. People fighting for love, in any form, will create a crowd, lining the streets. The have-nots, what-nots, the why-the-hell-nots, shall all be there. And me, I'll be there too - deep in the sweat pit of the first row - freaking over the hottest acts in indie rock. Me, I'll be shagging to sheet music for lack of being shagged in my sheets for weeks. It's OK though. I'm not alone in my awkward, abstinent life. My friend Jason's single, too. And right now, he's ringing my cell phone, saying he doesn't care I only slept three hours last night; honestly, he could give a shit less that my friend Jessica was piss-drunk and kept me up all evening because she couldn't find her car after consuming a keg of vodka.

"Dude, where's my car?" Jessica repeated all night, tossing and turning on the bed beside me. "Seriously. Dude. Where's my car?"

So today, I stay in bed, resting to be sexy and single for the stratosphere tonight.

"Wake up. I need you!" Jason moans over the phone. "It's Greg again. I'm telling you, he best stop messing with my head if he's not messing up my bed!"

Fluffing my pillow - the sun filling my eyes with fire - I wish away the weight of my eye-lids. "Pleeeeease. Let me sleep," I beg.

Still, Jason proceeds, ignoring me. "He's not giving me what I want. So I'm 'bout to stack the cards, bitch."

"Ugh, not another game."

"Oh no, it's no game 'cause I got all the pieces...."

Puzzled yet? Well then, let me connect the jaded edges, the spots to make the plot connect. You see, three weeks ago, after a near-death accident, Jason decided he's stupid; he's always been in love with Greg. The problem: they're best friends and second, maybe, third cousins. Hence, it's been extremely awkward, particularly for me, because I'm the only one who knows the secret. "That way if it gets out, I know who to knock out," Jason once explained, leading to today, where he refuses to attend tonight's festivities because Greg might be there. Jason thinks it's best to play hard to get. His plan: get completely drunk and then punch the keys to Greg's cell phone, where he'll casually announce he's been to dinner with a new man tonight. Some guy he met at "the beach."

"Let me guess. Somewhere ass-up in the dunes?" I inquire.

"NOT funny!" Jason spits. "Listen, you're the one who told me to play hard to get when you like someone. Leave the one you want wanting more. Isn't that what you say?"

Yes, but can you play hard to get if you're the only one playing? Or are you just a white lie away from a stack of spades in a mind game of solitaire?

"You don't understand. I can't risk telling him! I can't!" Jason screams, calling in a drunken rant when I'm at the festival later that night. "Have you seen Greg? Damn him, he's not answering my texts. I need him to respond. Is he there?"

"Yeah, he's around. What's going on? What's wrong?"

For the last two hours, Jason states he's been dancing alone at the beach, in ankle-length water. The moon is his night light, he says. The stars have been cradling his cries. Meanwhile, I'm drowning in the electro-beat of an indie song - one signifying a ceaseless fight for equal rights: a change for us all, a change we can believe. And through the dark, I spy a rainbow of glow sticks. "Stop being dramatic and come hang out," I say. "This is stupid."

"Whatever! What do you know about risks?" Jason challenges. "Since you broke up with your golden goose of a boyfriend, you can't even kiss a guy."

'Tis true, I think, with a sinking heart. But then again, is there no greater risk than giving up everything you know - everything you're comfortable with - just because your hearts insists there is more? Is there anything dicier than going at this life alone?

It's intriguing, how quick we are to take risks daily, for humor, entertainment or a night of casual sex. How we wind up behind the wheel after a wild spin at a bar. How we breeze over the thought of disease when presented a night with a sleazy stranger. But take a risk in the name of love? Well, that's unheard of. There's too much to lose. Or gain.

So weekly, I witness Jason's proud poker face as he hides behind a deck of cards, stealing touches from Greg without really touching him. That casual kiss on Greg's cheek is a friendly kiss, mind you, even though Jason's voice - sullen when Greg can't be found - often sounds desperate enough to sing, "Dude, where's my heart?"

"I can't tell him!" Jason cries - his voice, drowning under the music. "I love him, but I'm keeping that to myself. That way, I'll never lose it, right? It'll always be with me. Isn't that smart?"

And with a breath, I risk being slapped with a dead signal by saying no. But that's a risk I take, because I believe loving and not letting the love be known is always a losing hand.

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