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So this is one way to go out, and one bedazzled nightcap I’d rather not wear. There was a time when Sunday evening dusks scraped the bottoms of 20-bags with dirty fingernails, while wild eyes darted around the paranoia tiles of gay-bar men’s rooms. The ratty cover of an overtold bedtime story creaked open and jolted reason from its comfort shoes and onto the platform-heeled mischief prowl. There was a time when everything seemed to matter so much more than it does tonight, or will ever again. There was time then. And there was Skotty Pitts calling me “whore.”

There isn’t anymore.

Tonight is the messy send-off for one of the best friends I ever had, and as much as I’d like to chalk it up as a dog-eared life lesson tossed like a penny into the fate fountain, it’s all devastatingly real. Appropriately, the whole shebang is being hosted by the fine folks of Revolution Nightclub who, as if on cue, have turned the old Southern Nights into itself again, just in time for everybody who used to come here for their fagulous fallouts to smear a little eyeliner and bid adieu to a truly beautiful friend. Sentiment is splashing everywhere in its various tangible forms – some teardrops, some photos, some drinks, some pathos – and that sort of shot-out feeling that comes two days into the grief waltz is threatening to break my chest cavity open like some misery seed. “It’s My Life” is Talk Talking. Well, at least, it used to be.

“How are you, Billy?” sniffles a wilting BabyBlue. “Will you be the first to sign the guest book?”

Soon, but not now.

I first crashed on Skotty’s shore at the century’s turn, myself a washed-out failure of Village Voice ambitions who took the humble tumble from a nonstick New York attempt into my redneck brother’s palatial Clermont lowbrow. If Skotty had wings, he apparently took me under one of them, giving me rescued pride of plastic-panted place in a 400-square-foot hovel on downtown’s Hibiscus Court. He called me “chicken,” probably because I wasn’t flying anywhere, or because of my hair. We fricked and fracked around in dubious circles of assumed homosexual nobility, typically settling for afternoons with old-lady cream liqueur on a couch-like throne in front of rabbit-ears barely transmitting Jerry Springer.

“Psst, psst, psst,” he would cat-call out the second-floor window at the old cat lady across the street who was always one “psst, psst, psst” ahead of him. We were going nowhere and that was fine. We were old ladies in need of cats.

No, we weren’t. We were ridiculous.

Cue the memory feed of Johnny Wright’s back yard with various boy/girl band manifestations orbiting around Lou Pearlman’s midsection, while Skotty and I pedaled out on a pedal-boat to sniff up some severity. Skotty was a stylist, one who was sucked into the TransCon epicenter long before its destructive explosion, and he took me along for the animatronic ride. In fact, my first column – my pilot episode, the one that never ran – involved a bitchfest with a pre-fame, pre-rehab Fergie and her then-band, Wild Orchid, dishing on drugs and Britney. Britney!

But not all of our digressions were punctuated with teen-pop exclamation points. We were tragic pop stars in our own right, stumbling through night life in shades of ’80s recovery, typically leaning into our Patsy-and-Eddie assignations throughout attempts to shape the inherently Orlando into the Absolutely Fabulous. Backstage at a Duran Duran show, Simon LeBon came over to our respective pants with a comment for each. He liked my green Gallianos, even touching my quivering leg to let me know. He looked at Skotty’s day-glo orange Gaultier ski pants with a different face entirely. “Yours, however, are ugly,” he balked. Skotty was devastated.

If he was Debbie Harry, then I was Cyndi Lauper, meaning I was more prone to fits of choppy-haired balladry while he could coolly murder a scene with just one roll of his mascara-caked eyes. Skotty was more likely to keep his feelings bottled with his Crown Royal, only popping the top in moments of severe fuck-you road rage, or, perhaps, after one too many dives into the brown liquor. But we always met somewhere, straddling the giant hole in the middle of a scratched Missing Persons 45. We were lucky like that.

Skotty would go on to meet the man of his dreams in James, while I would hop the Alan horse soon after, and our old Hibiscus apartment lingered on unoccupied for nearly two years as a museum to excess that smelled of sweaty leather and amyl nitrate. It was hard to let go then, as it is now.

There were signs it was coming. Skotty’s liver and kidneys went off the rock-star cliff a few years ago, and with them his styling career. He became increasingly reclusive and grumpy and started hemorrhaging friends. Perplexingly, he made the decision to keep the glass raised and half-empty, drinking in life the only way he knew how. I don’t know that I wouldn’t do the same. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the gay mind, the eternal grip on glittery fabulosity, and how when it comes
time to turn the page into your 40s, it’s hard to know where to find the wife-and-kids substitutes; it’s hard to even find the book. You just play “True Colors” one more time and hope that maybe on this occasion it will take. It never does.

“Here, sign it,” Blue lays the guest book next to me, my drink, and the reflection of my face on the bar.

“You will always be in my head and in my heart, bitch,” I blend blue ink with a tear. “All is full of love.”

This is no way to go out.

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