"I've just done the dumbest thing in the world!"

Tony's on the porta-horn spewing self-satisfaction at the sad fact that he's locked his keys in his running car at 7-Eleven on Valentine's Day, thereby forcing his flowers-free husband to actually offer affection in the form of a pop-a-lock rescue. He's lucky. My husband's gambling in Biloxi ("I took a wrong turn in Alabama," he charmed. "It happens to the best of them"), so the chances of my forcing a big gay drama for masculine tending-to on the VD are about as good as his at mastering Mississippi craps. Worse still, I've got the craps.

Love is in the air and it smells like sulfur. Love stinks.

"You should probably just watch the movie yourself," Tony locks without pops.

No, I probably shouldn't. I've rented The Squid and the Whale as a depressing precursor to a depressing night, and just the thought of pre-teen semen being smeared across a school locker as witnessed by a lonely, gay 34-year-old might bring unnecessary confusion to my vodka-stained suicide note. Especially if I'm naked. Gross!

By the time Tony arrives at 10, I've managed to remain suitably clothed and less-suitably tipsy. We've signed up for an evening of planned reckless abandon with a gaggle of other gay strays who are said to be congealing in a "boys night out" at that Mills Avenue bunghole that used to be the Cactus, and now apparently used to be Studz (although it still says it's Studz, so I can't be certain). Paradise, they're calling it, and from the looks of the décor — aquamarine walls, illuminated 3-D seaside paintings with moving waves, ugly men with bellies dangling over the pairs of dice in their stained underpants — I'd say they're just the opposite of right. As is the large, penis-shaped red velvet cake with white buttercream semen pouring out its top.

"Do you think that the chocolate icing at the base is supposed to be pubic hair or poop?" I pose the most unappealing question ever.

"Both?" Tony gags, while all in earshot (cum shot?) chortle like lowly gay penis galleries do. There's a script, you know.

Everybody who isn't anybody is here, most crammed into a far corner of emphysema-hacked chatter littered with half-empty beer pitchers — Wanzie, Doug, Hard Rock's Jeff Jones, his ponytail, Scottie Campbell, his missing underpants, Sam Singhaus (again with the we-look-alikes), Watermark's Tom Dyer, his digital camera, me — all pressed against each other like one homophobe's bomb target or one really bad gay sex podcast. Strict orders to leave the hags at home seem to have been followed, too, unless Harvey Fierstein really is a woman. But while it seems fun on the surface, standing queer with beer gets old really fast. This is a gay vacuum; an emotional Hoover. It's all whale and no squid.

"I may not fuck women," I philosophize through a Marlboro filter parading as a tooth, suddenly forming an appetite for grouper. "But I guess they're necessary."

After all, they invented bitchy. We just knock it off.

Tony, Roy and I knock ourselves off toward the fishy Peacock Room across the street, where the former Weekly columnist whom I've supposedly knocked off, Liz Langley, is holding drunk-girl court at her own anti-Valentine's "I Love You, Man" soiree.

"You just missed it!" Liz bangs, sweetly. Phew.

What we just missed was the contest she was holding to determine who in town just might have had the worst date ever (duh). She even has a Very Important Friend in town from a destination-weddings magazine to help her judge.

I do not run in circles like these. If she's Carrie Bradshaw, then I'm Mary Fuckup.

"Oh my god," I fuck up. "I so would have won with my straight-surfer-guy-who-tells-me-I-look-like-I-like-to-party, pass-out-fucks-me-soundtracked-by-Beck's-"Loser," promises-me-a-boat-trip-the-next-day-and-never-calls-me-back story!"

"Um, that's not a date," Liz's friend dismisses me with a champagne scowl.

And as we all know, if that's not a date, then there probably hasn't been a date since 1956. We just kid ourselves until we're fat and reflective. Or at least drunk.

"Though I tried not to hurt you, though I try," I karaoke 10 minutes later, drunk on Poison and memory (I was dumped to this song once … OK, twice). "Well, I guess that's why they say every rose has its thorn," fists in the air, then to the floor.

Before any more poodle-metal damage can be done, Tony and I pare back over to Paradise for one last gander. The penis cake has been partially devoured to its red core, tellingly, and the crowd has thinned — like their hair — considerably. So, it turns out, has my shame; I can't be sure, but I think the liquor ran off with it.

Doug Ba'aser sidles up next to us at a bar corner and my instinctive desire to screw everything up by some means of self-saving ventriloquism takes over.

"Are you guys gonna make out again?" I nudge. "Are you? Are you?"

They disappear to a far end of the bar where there stands, inexplicably, a wall of lockers, some probably with semen smeared across them. I Nancy Drew around the corner at them until they disappear into the bathroom where they absolutely, positively, do not swap spit (they do) and in a sudden moment of clarity, I rush back to a shame ashtray behind a beer shadow and try to figure out just what I've become and just how many drinks it's taken me to get here.

"I've just done the dumbest thing in the world" might be ringing through my head for the rest of eternity.

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